Strictly Business

Monday, Mar 03 2014 02:00 PM

ROBIN PAGGI: Hire, retain most valuable employees

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    Californian contributing columnist Robin Paggi.

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BY ROBIN PAGGI Contributing columnist

Like many people, I enjoy being in my 50s. Why is being 50ish so fabulous? According to numerous articles on the subject and my own experience, it's generally because one is old enough to have gained valuable knowledge and experience, but still young enough to have some fun.

However, here's a bit of news to rain on that parade. According to AARP's 2013 Multicultural Work and Career Study, the majority of participants who reported witnessing or experiencing age discrimination in the workplace said it begins when workers are in their 50s.

If people in their 50s are being discriminated against, what must it be like for those in their 60s, 70s and 80s? Yes, lots of people that age are either still working or trying to find a job, including my 74-year-old mom and soon-to-be 78-year-old dad who do not intend to retire -- ever.

So, what does it mean to be discriminated against because of age? Age discrimination occurs when applicants and employees are treated less favorably (such as not being hired or promoted or being terminated) because of being 40 or older. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the state Fair Employment and Housing Act make such actions illegal.

Why do employers discriminate against older people? In our youth-centric society, it's easy to understand. Howard Eglit, a professor of law at Chicago-Kent College of Law who focuses on law and aging, said on www.nbc.com, "There is no question that age bias is rampant throughout American society and in the workplace in particular."

To add insult to injury, in her article "11 Sneaky Ways Companies Get Rid of Older Workers" on www.forbes.com, Forbes staff writer Deborah L. Jacobs says that, "Companies looking to ditch older employees (have learned to) be creative in the ways they try to avoid age discrimination claims," such as cutting job duties, cutting hours, and isolating older employees to try to get them to quit.

Telling employers that discriminating against older applicants and employees is against the law evidently does not prevent it from happening. So, here are some reasons employers should refrain from adopting an "out with the old, in with the new" philosophy regarding employment. Older workers:

Know how to get the job done. In his article "Why Older Workers are Better Workers" on www.money.usnews.com, Dave Beard says that, because older workers tend to be knowledgeable and experienced, they usually need less oversight by management.

Tend to have good communication and people skills. Older workers already had a lot of job experience before e-mail, instant messaging or texting were invented. "As a result, they have advanced communication and people skills ... face-to-face communication is an essential skill in the business world and one that junior staff sometimes struggles with," writes Debi Ritter at Corp Magazine.

Are happier with what they've got. According to a study by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, nine in 10 workers who are 50 or older reported being very or somewhat satisfied with their jobs. Additionally, 63 percent of workers 65 and older expressed deep satisfaction with their jobs compared to 38 percent of young adults.

Stick around. Because older workers tend to be more satisfied with their jobs and more interested in stability, they stay put, Ritter says. Indeed, my mom just celebrated her 39th anniversary at her place of employment.

Have a good work ethic. A Pew Research Center survey revealed that, "Nearly six in 10 respondents cited work ethic as one of the big differences between young and old. Asked who has the better work ethic, about three-fourths of respondents said that older people do."

Are connected. In a study conducted by The Center on Aging and Work at Boston College, 46.3 percent of employers who responded said that older employees have stronger professional and client networks than younger workers. Of course they do -- they've been around to cultivate those relationships.

While it might appear otherwise, the above information is not intended to disparage younger workers. People of every age can bring value to the organization. My advice is to hire and retain whoever brings the most value -- regardless of whether they are young or old.

-- Robin Paggi is the training coordinator at Worklogic HR Legal Solutions. Reach her at rpaggi@worklogiclegal.com. These are her opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.

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