HR Hartley

Why is everyone making such a fuss about employing older workers? It’s really not that complicated. Many years of work often mean older workers have the experience and skills to get things done. Yup – it’s that simple.

Admittedly, the odd Victor Meldrew will crop up among the increasing hoards of older staff. He is easily identifiable, for he will skulk around mumbling: “I don’t believe it,” whenever some new technology is installed to make everyone else’s lives – except his own – easier. “When I were a lad,” he tells anyone who will listen, “windows were things you looked through.”

Still, the Meldrews are few and far between in my experience and as we HR professionals know, moaning is not restricted to the elder worker.

Is there a downside to employing older staff? Well ok, some may have peaked, and are not as aware as dynamic youngsters. But how often are those same dynamic youngsters off sick after a heavy night of drinking which then leaves them with a heavy dose of ‘the flu’ because in their sozzled state, they lurched around town in a t-shirt in temperatures well below zero? Few older workers would do that. If the research carried out by this venerable magazine is to be believed, two-thirds of people believe the over-45s take less sick leave.

Yet we’re dithering about solving our skills crisis. Our recruitment options are becoming so limited we are going to have to change the law so that child labour is once again legal. The only difference will be that this time, the scamps will be wearing suits and determining company strategy.

There just aren’t enough people to employ, and discriminating against older staff can only make this worse. Shipping in foreigners to fill empty posts may be part of the answer, but it’s not the whole one. Besides, its costing me a fortune.

Still not yet persuaded? Then I appeal to your sense of self-preservation. I hate to be the one to break this to you, but one day, you too will be an older worker. And, given the pensions crisis, you’ll be desperate to work. It’s time to invest in a culture change – if only for the sake of your own future.

HR Hartley is an HR director at large

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