The stereotype of an older worker is of someone with reams of experience but potentially fragile health, outdated skills and almost certainly a higher salary—hardly a draw for employers.
AARP poked a hole in that concept in 2005 when it published its first look at the business case for older workers. This new analysis, taking place after the Great Recession and the resulting spike in unemployment, finds additional evidence that older workers add value.
"We were surprised to see that the business case had grown even stronger," said Laura Bos, manager, financial security, education and outreach for AARP.
When employers talk about their older workers, "they talk about them bringing experience, maturity and professionalism," she said. "There is some mentoring and knowledge transfer."
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The 2015 study also found that along with perspective and experience, older workers have a slightly higher level of engagement than younger colleagues. Aon found that 65 percent of workers over age 55 were engaged, compared with 58 to 60 percent for younger workers.
High employee engagement is nice, but it also has tangible benefits for an employer's bottom line. An earlier Gallup survey found that organizations with the most engaged workforce had measurably higher productivity and significantly lower rates of absenteeism, employee turnover and safety incidents. Lower turnover alone is good for an organization. Research by the Society for Human Resource Management found that replacement costs can actually exceed an employee's annual salary.
"All my research points to that exact thing," said Kerry Hannon, author of "Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills." "The older workers really are more engaged. They are more loyal. They're not job jumping."
That may be in part because they know how hard it could be to find another job. AARP's Public Policy Institute recently published a study showing that 45 percent of job seekers age 55 or older were out of work for 27 weeks or more in 2014, and that those who did find work often wound up with lower paying jobs offering fewer benefits.
"There are older workers who have these skills and talents, and they have lost their jobs and they are looking for a job," said Bos. "On the other hand we know we have employers with skills gaps and brain drains."
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