Are you racking your brains looking for a way to hire employees on a tight budget? Perhaps you’ve even put out want ads for jobs but haven’t found any candidates with the right experience and attitude.
Maybe the problem is that you’re overlooking a huge pool of potential employees: Seniors. (Seriously, we need to come up with a better name for this generation of Americans.)
A study (PDF) from the University of Michigan found that these days, more “mature” Americans are taking “partial retirement.” Already 20 percent of workers aged 65 to 67 and 15 percent of those aged 60 to 62 are partially retired.
Partial retirement itself is a relatively new trend. In 1960, the study reports, only about 5 percent of workers in the 65 to 67 age range were partially retired and among people age 60 to 62, the concept was virtually nonexistent.
What’s Behind the Growth of Partial Retirement?
The study points to several factors. During tough economic times, older workers are more likely to be laid off or choose to exit the work force. However, many either can’t afford to take full retirement, or don’t want to because they enjoy working. As a result, more and more workers over 60 are taking what the study calls “bridge jobs” – lower-paying jobs intended to tide them over until full retirement as opposed to continuing in, or searching for, “career jobs.”
The growth of partial retirement is good news for small business owners, as it’s creating a new pool of potential workers who have lots of experience but are willing to work for less.
The Pros and Cons of Employing Seniors
Below are some of the issues mentioned in a survey (PDF) of hiring managers by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
Pro: Seniors Tend to Be Good With People
Often, they want to keep working because they enjoy socializing and don’t want to be isolated at home. This makes them natural “relators” who are likely to be patient and friendly. This type of person can be great as a retail employee, customer service rep, greeter (think Wal-Mart) or in another type of role that involves lots of hand-holding.
Pro: Seniors Have Valuable Experience You Couldn’t Afford to Hire Full-Time
I recently needed new carpet in my home and was trying to match old carpet installed 10 years ago. A senior (partially retired) salesman at the company I worked with was able to identify the brand and find a near-perfect match in a matter of minutes due to his decades of industry knowledge. He was also more efficient than many younger, less experienced people might have been.
Pro: Seniors Can Share Their Knowledge with Junior Employees
Having a senior mentor train younger employees is a great way to bring them up to speed on your industry.
Pro: Seniors Possess Useful Networks
Seniors who have spent a long time in the workforce typically have networks of contacts that can be useful to your business.
Pro: Seniors Have More Dedication
Because their children are grown and they may be widows or widowers, seniors are likely to have more dedication to your business than employees who are juggling marriage, children and family life with the demands of their jobs.
Con: Possibly Less Tech Savvy
Seniors are likely to be less tech-savvy than younger generations who’ve grown up with technology. That said, they are typically very willing to learn, and with a majority of people over 65 now online according to Pew data, they have at least some familiarity with social media, email and other essential tools.
Con: Potential Physical Limitations
Seniors will most likely have physical limitations that younger employees won’t. So if the job requires a lot of walking, standing, lifting or other physical labor, it’s probably not ideal for an older individual. The good news is, as part-timers, they won’t need to be on your company’s health insurance so their health issues won’t raise your rates.
How Can You Find Qualified Seniors?
Tap into senior-related resources in your community, let your connections know you’re looking for senior employees, or advertise on senior job boards such as Senior Job Bank or Workforce 50.
Employee Photo via Shutterstock