As we ride out the first half of 2022, we find ourselves in a unique situation with large amounts of both unfilled jobs and unemployed workers. Volatile housing costs, sharp inflation, and the adjustment to a post-pandemic world are a few major reasons our employment market seems to be stuck in shuffle mode right now. The so-called “great resignation” of 2021 still has some business owners reeling to fill crucial roles, while in other places, workers are wondering where all these unfilled jobs are and how to find one.
One of the demographics hardest hit by this turmoil in our job market is Generation X. Many people in this group (very roughly defined as people from about 40 to 60 years old today) struggle to get re-hired when they attempt to change companies, careers, or cities. This ultimately hurts families, communities, and society at large, and it could also be hurting your business.
People over 40 often have social and practical skills underrepresented in today’s workforce, which sets them apart from millennial and Gen-Z coworkers. Unfortunately, many businesses are failing to tap into this source of employees due to a combination of narrow hiring philosophies, internal bias, and an undervaluation of certain “old school” skills.
While automated application systems are a great way to streamline your administrative processes, applicants over 40 can get overlooked due to resume filters that favor superficial tech buzzwords over broad hands-on experience (the sort of experience that can be adapted to a variety of jobs).
What’s Happening With Older Workers?
There is plenty of data to back up the unfortunate fact that older workers face bias and discrimination, even in this age of increased social consciousness and even at some of our nation’s largest and most iconic employers. As Kristin Alden, a labor law attorney in Washington, D.C., told an AARP reporter, “Age discrimination is so pervasive that people don’t even recognize it’s illegal.” SDS Project Managers frequently note that clients are never openly biased against female or minority candidates, but they have no issue saying that a candidate is too old. Few realize that candidates over 40 years of age are protected by Federal law.
Once workers reach a certain age, they may feel that their bosses are no longer willing to invest in their training or further their careers. And, if they need to change careers or move on to a new company, it can be nearly impossible to find a job that fits their experience and pay requirements. Older workers can be particularly susceptible to application burnout, the process of filling out dozens of job applications without receiving any callbacks or leads. These frustrated workers sometimes leave the workforce entirely, turning to self-employment or other alternatives.
Businesses predictably tighten their purses in an uncertain economy. For many, this means hiring younger, cheaper workers, or automating jobs wherever possible. Combine this with a steadily climbing retirement age (many Americans now consider 70 the default), and you can see the dangerous gap workers over 40 are falling into.
Where Are Workers Over 40 Succeeding?
One of the last bastions of consistent employment for people over 40 in the United States seems to be government work. In the general civilian workforce, about 54% of working people are over 40. Meanwhile, the federal government is 72% comprised of workers age 40 or over. This is according to a report from the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunities Commission).
Why is the federal government more interested in 40-and-over workers than the private sector? What do they see in this unique sector of the workforce that your business may be missing out on?
How Workers Over 40 Drive Your Business’s Success
While only one piece of the puzzle, hiring a staff that represents various age groups is a crucial aspect of diversity. This, in turn, is a key driver of company culture, employee satisfaction, and productivity. This seems obvious on the surface, but ageism is still sometimes glossed over or absent when it comes to workplace discussions and even professional seminars about diversity.
Consider some of the ways workers over 40 make your staff stronger:
- Gen-Xers possess social and interpersonal skills that millennial and Gen-Z workers have been known to struggle with. People over 40 often excel in front-line, customer-facing roles for this reason.
- Many Gen-X workers have solid tech fundamentals. These are not Baby Boomers who had little access to electronics growing up. Most Gen-Xers grew up on Nintendo and were teens or young adults when the internet became ubiquitous. The clunky nature of navigating early PCs means that people over 40 sometimes have even better tech intuition than a Gen-Z worker who grew up using apps with slick interfaces that require little troubleshooting or user setup.
- People over 40 are more likely to have family or other roots in the community. This makes them great customer liaisons when it’s time to represent your business out in the field and makes them less likely to move on to something new without notice.
The Over 40 Crowd: An Overlooked Source of Quality Employees
What can you do to combat ageism and leverage the over-40 workforce to diversify and improve your business? Start with a close review of both your official hiring practices and your internal biases. Using an scored hiring process like HireScore helps to minimize bias in your process while focusing on key attributes necessary to be successful on the job. Remember: a diverse set of skills, backgrounds, and personalities is a great way to ensure your business can adapt to any situation.