Employment Strategies – The Hidden Workforce

Are you attracting the best employees to your workforce? Do you have a well developed plan to seek out and attract the highest caliber of prospective employees, and if so, are you overlooking a very large and growing source of quality recruits?

The number of articles appearing in the news in recent years alluding to the scarcity of qualified workers seems to grow every week. Companies are spending a significant amount of money trying to attract, hire, train and retain a quality workforce. They advertise in newspapers, hold job fairs, hire employment services, saturate the online job banks and canvas the universities, but are you neglecting a highly qualified and experienced pool of workers who are right in front of you?

As your business grows, creating new openings, and as older workers retire, it is getting harder and harder to attract those valued recruits. The competition is stiff and the temptation to switch employers grows as salaries and signing bonuses rise. It seems the pool of capable and experienced workers is shrinking, lengthening the recruitment periods, extending the time it takes to get a new hire up to speed, and increasing the percentage of employees who simply can’t perform to your expectations. But in fact, there is a qualified pool of employable workers out there, and they’re hiding in plain sight.

BEST KEPT SECRET

I’m talking about those workers out there over 40. They comprise a very large and highly skilled group of workers who are still capable of contributing in the workplace for many more years. They come from every field, every size company, every product line, and they’re looking for work. Unfortunately very few employers have a plan to attract and hire these individuals. No one will admit it outright, but they actually have a strict tendency to avoid this resource altogether. You want workers with a strong ethic. You want loyal workers who will show up every day, on time, and contribute to the health of your organization. You want knowledgeable workers with a diverse background and a wealth of experience. You want workers who will hit the floor running and produce results from day one. Yet, you recruit the younger demographic who more often than not, are substantially lacking in many of these areas.

THE MYTHS

We all know the reasons: the older sector costs too much, they take too much time off, won’t learn new skills, don’t stay on the job that long, take too many sick days, and they are not that eager to accept change. These reasons, however, are myths in most cases and with a little planning; an older worker can be a valuable asset to your organization.

Most of these older workers have a long and well documented track record. It is a simple task to determine how well they have performed, if they have kept up to date with the latest technology, how they have contributed to the success of their previous employer, what their attendance record is, and what level of loyalty they possess. Yet we dismiss this evidence without much thought, compete aggressively for the younger worker, and grouse if they turn out to be less than what was expected.

Those older workers whom we believe can’t or won’t learn new skills know exactly what you think of them. They came to the realization a long time ago that in today’s competitive market, the need to keep up to date is paramount. Remember, they’ve been around a while, they’ve seen the days of working for the same employer until retirement go by the wayside, and they’ve seen their years of loyalty and hard work rewarded with forced retirements and meager raises. They’ve seen their picture of retirement fade into obscurity as today’s economy forces them to work farther into their “golden” years and they’ve accepted the fact that to make it to that ever moving finish line they will need to remain competitive in their field.

As for not staying on the job that long, statistics actually show that older workers remain on the job nearly twice as long as younger ones. The younger worker knows all too well that employers are competing fiercely for their skills. They too have come to realize that the day will come when they will be squeezed out of the workforce and have taken the attitude that loyalty is no guarantee for the future and, therefore, are always on the lookout for that “better” opportunity. All workers have become aware that they have much more leverage if they leave on their own, rather than waiting until they have been released, for whatever reason, and as a result today’s culture views job hopping as a perfectly acceptable means to furthering one’s career. So by hiring, or better yet, retaining that older worker you have effectively secured a loyal employee who knows it’s tough to find another good job at this point in life and is much more willing to do what it takes to stay on.

Attendance records are better for older workers than younger ones. Older workers have seen what poor attendance does to your chances for advancement. Time tends to make us creatures of habit, but one habit worth keeping is that of getting up in the morning and going to work. Older workers have been doing it for years and tend to do it without forethought.

Probably the most common barrier to hiring the older worker is the mindset that older workers are too rigid in their ways and are not willing or capable of adapting. The older worker has been on the job for long time and as a result has seen many new approaches come and go, they’ve seen them succeed and they’ve seen them fail. Because they’ve seen many of these failures they often will be more likely to question the validity of change, but don’t forget, they’ve seen what works as well. They are not rigid because they reject change outright, but are merely skeptical of the reasoning involved. They can accept change as readily as younger workers, provided the grounds for change are valid and explained. The irony is that we want our staff to use good judgment and to continually look for possible pitfalls and strive to prevent them from occurring, yet when they question our rationale, we label them rigid or unwilling to change. By keeping older workers involved and informed, as we should do with all our employees, they will not only be more flexible, but can be willing agents of change.

It is true that more vacation time, pensions, and health care in some instances is more costly for older workers, but these costs are often offset by the lower turnover among this class. Conversely, the higher turnover of younger workers is realized in significant costs to recruit, hire and train them.

TAP INTO THAT RESOURCE

When hiring a younger worker you anticipate the negative possibilities that can arise if you don’t train, mentor, and manage them properly. In an effort to minimize this risk we have many programs in place to grow these workers into experienced reliable team players. Why should we not afford our aging workers the same attention? Instead of looking for reasons to replace them, we should be finding ways to hire and keep them.

If hiring on an older worker still seems too risky, take advantage of those low risk or nonbinding hiring options. By using an employment agency you can easily “try out” prospective employees. These agencies will do all the leg work for you from background and reference checks to interviewing and salary negotiations. If you are not satisfied, you are not obligated to keep them on, simply have the agency find you another and try that recruit for a while. This option not only gives you an out, but removes the direct burden of vacation, healthcare, pension and other benefit costs.

Another great option is the myriad of independent consulting firms in your area. A large percentage of these companies can provide tailor made support and services at reasonable costs. Again, like the employment agencies, these contracted services are a write off, allow you to discontinue the services if you are not satisfied and remove the training and benefit costs associated with direct hires.

There is a wealth of knowledge at our doorstep, a vast resource of experienced and capable employees who can hit the ground running and positively impact your bottom line. You should be developing plans to attract and retain these workers, and not just because there are profits to be made, but because it is the right thing to do.