By Victoria Carter.
I have a friend who is aged between 50 and 65 who has to report to someone aged around 30. Listening to some of her challenges I think 'if only someone in their HR department was more skilled'. This Gen Y guy obviously thinks this skilled and experienced person in the already established team he now heads doesn’t have a lot to offer. Maybe she reminds him of a mum, and maybe he thinks (wrongly) she is slow with technology? Maybe he hasn’t spent any time actually considering: what are her strengths and what does she add to the team?
It sounds like he has failed to see in all his dealings with her that she is highly networked. Having been in the restaurant/liquor trade for more than 30 years all the successful people are still there and they know and like her. So she does do great things for the company’s sales.
Perhaps Gen Y guy thinks he can rock up and just be himself and do the deal. But he forgets one core thing – people like doing business with people they have good relationships with and that long standing relationships matter.
Someone could make a fortune running an HR session on ‘How to use the talents of your employees over 50.’ I was going to write 'How to see the talents' but I realised that Gen Y is probably more interested in getting value from them!
Yes, baby boomers have not just experience; the most important things they bring to any business, are probably their long established networks and their experience at how to get things done. Most baby boomers are great at project management. They’ve been around long enough to be skilled at communicating.
I have regularly suggested to companies I advise that they should think about hiring an older person to be on their reception desk, particularly if they are in a service business. Why? Because so often I’ve phoned a business and encountered what sounds like a high pitched, unconfident voice simpering into the phone. A more mature voice builds confidence. If there is a problem, the older person has probably got some suggestions on how to help rather than giving a rather feeble “I don’t know” response.
We’d better get used to seeing more older people in the workforce. Hey, the bad news Gen Y is that by 2030, 25 percent of the workforce will be over 55 – that will be you!
New Zealand already has the second highest employment rate in the OECD of people aged over 55 and under 64 and the third highest of people aged between 65 and 69.
With more and more older people choosing and needing to stay employed the challenge for younger bosses is to recognise, value and appreciate their talents. Find out how to make the most of their ability; yes they may be older but whatever challenges your business faces they have probably seen something similar before! Even better, they won’t panic but will know how to cope!
Victoria Carter has had experience as a director of a number of privately owned companies (Kidicorp, JUCY Group) and currently, Tax Management NZ. She is a Chartered Fellow of the Institute of Directors.
April 21, 2015