A concern frequently expressed by my executive clients and prospects is regarding the age factor. Many fear that they are going to be subject to age discrimination as early as age 40, and either be let go by a current employer in favor of a younger hire or passed over by potential employers who want fresh, young talent that they can mold in the company’s approach and methods. Just this afternoon, I spoke with a dynamic young executive who was concerned that his age at 45 was going to close the doors to many opportunities.
A recent Herman Trend Alert explores the age issue, with news that I think should provide some encouragement to job seekers who fear they may be “over the hill.”
Approximately one million people reach age 60 each month, and as the baby boomer generation ages, it is estimated that the number of workers in the U.S. between the ages of 55 and 64 will increase by more than 50% by 2010. With life expectancy now at 77 and many enjoying better health during their increased longevity, many more people are staying in the workforce long past the traditional retirement age of 65. This is driven in good part by boomers’ realization of the potentially high health care costs they face as they age and the fact that many have insufficient savings to fund a lengthy retirement.
Both government and industry do appear to be waking up to this reality, with AARP observing that an increasing number of major employers and government agencies are actively seeking to hire candidates 50 years plus. The wealth of experience and skills that older workers can bring to a workplace are seen as increasingly valuable, as well as their maturity of judgment, stability, and turnover rates lower than typical of younger workers.
It would seem that employers’ increasing interest in and appreciation of these older workers combined with the smaller pool of talent in the “baby bust” generation cannot help but benefit those workers in their 40s and 50s by altering perceptions of exactly when one makes that trek “over the hill.” According to an AARP-commissioned report from last year cited by Workforce Management, “Replacing an experienced worker of any age can cost 50 percent or more of the individual’s annual salary in turnover-related costs, with increased costs for jobs requiring specialized skills, advanced training or extensive experience–qualifications often possessed by 50-plus workers.” That’s a powerful financial incentive to keep aging workers on the payroll.