Career Opportunities for the 55+ Crowd

By Bill & Chris Sitter

It is early January of 2009…and yes, we realize that many construction equipment distributors and their OEM suppliers are in the midst of economy driven “rightsizing”. So why pick this time to make a case for hiring “older workers”…those of us past 55 or even past 60?

  • Our industry, just like the US economy, has historically experienced major fluctuations. No one would argue that today is a down period. However, many of us have endured multiple ups and downs and we’ve managed to survive the troughs and enjoy the boom times. The point is, there will continue to be a need for good productive workers and managers. In fact, it is in the tough times that companies really need the best leader-worker combination possible.
  • We’ve all seen demographic studies which prove that America is growing older, as the 55+ segment grows while the younger segments shrinks. All employers must deal with the fact that the average age of the employment pool is dramatically changing.
  • “70% of baby boomers (those born from 1946-1959) intend to keep working into their 70s and 80s, regardless of their financial status”; according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Long-term, this is good news for American industry because these willing workers are available to fill the void left by the shrinking of the younger labor/management hiring pool.

Okay…so if I’m an employer (dealer, manufacturer, or service provider) who is about to recruit and hire, are there other pluses to adding more mature associates to our organization? Yes, there are several positive factors to consider so let’s identify a few:

  • Strong work ethic – is typically expressed through dedication to getting the job done and getting it done right.
  • Industry knowledge and experience has been gained over years of real world problem solving, customer interface and training. This is typically lost when more mature workers move-on.
  • Respect for others including customers, managers, peers, subordinates and suppliers, and the ability to model this behavior throughout your organization.
  • Positive team orientation – they typically enjoy being on a team that pulls together to accomplish important goals; versus a loner approach of one who seeks individual credit.
  • Stability in family and finances. Although not universal, many mature workers have developed a balanced approach to life, based on positive family values. They are in a life period where it’s easier to focus on work without the pressures of a first mortgage or young family. The 55 and up group is often past the phase of just building their resumes & looking for the next big career opportunity, with another employer.
  • Comfort in assuming the role of a leader is one of the (often observed) cultural traits of baby boomers. However, these folks also appreciate the need for an organization structure and (as stated earlier) are inclined to show respect for their superiors.
  • Mentoring roles often come naturally as there is a degree of self confidence coupled with a genuine desire to help others succeed that makes for a good coach.
  • Mature workers can be motivated by any or all of the following: 1. a desire to remain productive; 2. the need to work for financial reasons (as retirement funds have shrunk, life expectancy is extended, and living costs increased); and they will be inspired by leaders who articulate a clear and stirring vision.

Granted, we’ve focused on all the good reasons for hiring experienced people. We realize that boomers did not grow up in the computer and internet era and there may be some technical training challenges. Also, not all seniors want to work a 40 hour week, although several will jump at full-time plus opportunities. Finally, you may need to invest some training resources to help older workers, especially managers, relate tactfully with the under 30s. All we suggest is that your HR hiring policies and practices give a great deal of consideration to proactively including the 55+ segment. They may just bring the needed experience, and get it done attitude, that’s needed for your company to survive the busts and optimize in the booms.