Prejudices in the hiring process extend beyond traditional notions of diversity
In the first part of this series on workforce diversity, we examined the ongoing hurdles women must overcome to conquer the gender equality gap that persists in the global workforce. Too many organizations, it seems, treat the notion of diversity as one exclusive to race and ethnicity. However, an employment culture that promotes universal equality among its workers and bars all forms of discrimination doesn’t stop there. The nature of diversity is itself quite diverse, and biases reach far beyond the standard concepts. They also include gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, physical disabilities and more. In past posts, we have looked deeper into the issues of discrimination and discussed the employment challenges facing talent outside the traditional ideas of diversity, such as veterans and even the long-term unemployed.
Because we’re steadily moving toward an economy dominated by skills, smart recruiters can seize the opportunity to find qualified candidates by seeking out talent that struggle against more subtle prejudices, such as job seekers who have been without work for six months or longer, service members returning to civilian industries and older workers.
For our second installment in this series, we’re going to focus on the struggles that plague America’s mature workers and the opportunities that abound for employers who actively source and recruit them. Like the long-term unemployed, older workers find themselves fighting biases and misperceptions about their abilities from hiring managers. And they too form an underutilized and overlooked pool of available talent.
The leadership drought
As we head into 2015, we see countless organizations centering their recruitment efforts on Millennials. There’s a lot this new generation of talent has to offer. They have in-demand STEM skills, are perhaps the most technologically savvy group of candidates on the market, possess drive and gumption, long to contribute to innovation, and bring fresh perspectives to the industries they support. And yet, the fact remains that they are young.
According to Deloitte’s annual report, Global Human Capital Trends, the number one issue cited by survey respondents, by an overwhelming 86 percent, was a glaring deficit of sorely needed leadership skills for future business growth. Organizations across nearly all industries say they are confronting a leadership drought, which they worry could hinder their progress. For 2015, this issue has become an imperative. Millennials aren’t lacking the characteristics or determination to become tomorrow’s great leaders (which we’ll be talking about in a forthcoming article), they’re lacking the experience.
In an increasingly competitive and fast-paced labor market, we believe that nobody should be discounting the potential that mature candidates bring to the conference table. Here are some of the top reasons why seasoned talent, if strategically positioned, can become any company’s ace in the hole.
The benefits of hiring experienced talent
Older workers bring less risk
Building a culture that encourages creativity and innovation is a mission-critical strategy for forward movement and sustainability. It’s also why companies are aggressively courting millennial talent. These youthful mavericks enjoy taking risks. They see these gambles as necessary systems of trial and error that lead to true innovation. And although business leaders want what these creative types have to offer, many become reluctant about how independent non-conformists can be recruited and then integrated into established work cultures. There are countless executives who would love to get their hands on the next Steve Jobs, Walt Disney or Richard Branson; yet an equal number would likely admit that they wouldn’t want to manage those personalities.
Risk takers are essential to business success in this young century, yet that doesn’t mean organizations have become less risk averse. There’s a difference. To ensure the proper functioning of a well-oiled machine, employers need established and experienced professionals who can maintain order and temper the risk-taking of creative mavericks. Candidates in their 40s and 50s, with their longer resumes and list of accomplishments, have seen it all. They’ve navigated the sometimes turbulent waters of office politics, have learned to work through bureaucratic processes, bring team building and management expertise, understand different work cultures, and have weathered the peaks and valleys that accompany dynamic business cycles.
The background, achievements and history of older candidates are also well documented, making them easy to assess and place for recruiters. This removes much of the guesswork and gambling that infuse the hiring process with young workers who may have only one or two jobs under their belts. Hiring older candidates removes the uncertainty from both the recruiting process and the daily administration of corporate operations.
Older talent know the face that stares back at them from the mirror
The young talent entering the workforce aren’t just gaining skills and experience — they’re embarking on a journey of self-discovery. They may not fully recognize the reflection they see in their mirrors each morning. And there’s certainly something attractive about hiring talent who can be shaped and taught. They’re filled with passion, energy and an eagerness to develop. However, as part of this rite of passage, young workers may also discover that they don’t enjoy the jobs they’re doing. For twenty-somethings fresh out of college, changing careers can be as frequent and sudden an exercise as changing majors. Their quest to grow can sometimes make them greater flight risks.
Older candidates are considerably more likely to be grounded. They have cultivated their identities and their work ethics. In short, they know precisely who they are — their strengths, abilities, potential and areas of improvement. The self-awareness of older talent better positions them to be strong and candid communicators, mentors, soundboards for lessons learned and best practices, and pillars of patience in times of change or disruption.
Older talent are multi-skilled and adaptable
As organizations focus on business models that emphasize smart, lean operations, ideal candidates tend to be those who can wear many hats. Talent in their 40s and up probably have closets full of different headpieces — some familiar, some more exotic. Their career development paths have taken them through all levels, from ringing registers to managing entire company divisions. They may have undergone several transformations throughout their careers, moving from customer service to sales to professional services and beyond.
In addition to holding down diverse roles, older talent have worked for a larger variety of industries, company sizes and teams, picking up valuable qualifications along the way. As they’ve aged, they’ve undoubtedly mastered essential skills, engineered unique solutions to problems, and become specialists in specific areas — an advantage to any employer, regardless of size or service offering. Their decades of hands-on work, vocational development, real-world education and proven dedication make older talent ideal team leaders for their younger counterparts, who are still building their range of skills and thickening their skin.
As older talent seek contingent engagements, they could deliver more for less
It used to be that contract workers were viewed as low-level clerical or blue-collar types who couldn’t find a full-time job. Today’s contractors, conversely, can be found in nearly every industry and in executive positions, including the C-suite.
As we cover in our eBook “The Future of Talent in the Contingent Workforce,” the supertemp is quickly becoming a new norm. Supertemps are not hungry young whelps looking to make their marks — they are top managers and professionals who’ve completed a formal education, been trained at industry leading firms, and who’ve chosen to pursue freelance careers. Corporations are increasingly trusting this tenured talent to do mission-critical work on a contract basis, instead of relying on permanent employees.
And although supertemps find their freelance work to be lucrative, companies still save money by not having to invest in full-time talent. Other motivating factors for supertemps include:
- Flexibility in scheduling, work hours, locations and assignments
- Allure of free agency for experienced talent who seek control over their vocational destinies and career paths
- New challenges and variety with differing projects, environments and objectives; the ability to contribute and make a positive impact through mentoring and the wisdom gained from decades in the market
For companies seeking qualified and proven professionals, supertemps are best-in-breed workers that won’t break the bank.
How staffing curators bring businesses and older talent together
According to government data, 40 percent of workers older than 55 were in the workforce as of February 2010 — up from 29 percent just seven years before. Analysts expect that number to increase to 43.5 percent by 2018. Policy advisers with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) state that over one-third of people aged 55 and older continue to participate actively in the U.S. workforce. They also say that working through staffing firms has become one of the most effective ways for this talent to find employment opportunities with less hassle and resistance.
Working through a temp agency helps seasoned candidates overcome job search-related hurdles before approaching prospective employers. And elite staffing curators generally provide counseling on resume preparation, interviewing and other career coaching. For business leaders, hiring older workers means hiring experience, dependability and a solid work ethic.
Enterprises that engage experienced staffing professionals with proven resources, cutting-edge recruitment methodologies and established networks will help put these hard-working and seasoned professionals into key positions, bridging the leadership gap and increasing the productivity of businesses across the nation.