In this weeks Mompreneur, we discuss the evolution of age discrimination in the workplace and the benefits of older workers.
In addition to being a mompreneur, I’m a nurse. The first formative years of my nursing career were spent in the emergency room of an urban hospital overflowing with sick and dying people. My schooling at a top university and work experience across a variety of settings have prepared me to walk into almost any medical emergency and get to work without blinking an eye.
And yet, the first time my baby caught a cold I immediately called my mother. Despite my training and experience, I needed help from someone who had been there before. I needed a grandmother, so to speak.
As the US Congress considers legislation to protect aging workers from unfair termination, Mompreneurs can benefit from actively recruiting older workers or people seeking to come out of retirement. Consider these five qualities that the right older worker could bring to your team:
It’s a widely accepted aphorism that experience is the greatest teacher. Unfortunately, until you have a little (often painful) experience of your own under your belt, it’s hard to fully appreciate the benefit of wise counsel.
While a mentor or close friend can provide good insight on the broad issues facing your business from the outside, having someone on your team who has weathered economic downturns, election cycles, social shifts, natural disasters, and professional triumphs and failures can make a significant positive impact on real-time decision making, long-term planning, and even company morale.
Hiring an older worker is a fantastic way to further diversify the perspectives on your team and can help foster thoughtful conversation and discussions, equipping you to make better, more well-informed decisions.
3. Etiquette and people skills
People who grew up in the era before instant messaging and texting know how to have actual conversations, both in person and over the phone. These communication skills can go a long way toward cultivating professionalism and a reputation for great customer service for your company. Older workers also often possess other important knowledge and skills, like how to format a business letter or properly address a thank-you note, that the rest of us have to research.
Imagine being tasked with a project and being told you can’t use your computer, phone or tablet. Where would you even begin without the internet?
Workers from earlier generations didn’t have ready-made templates, computer programs, apps, how-to videos or filters to do the work for them–they had to rely on their own creative abilities to organize and communicate data and information. This ability to think creatively without the aid technology can be a great asset when you’re trying to find new ways to reach consumers or deliver a message so that it doesn’t get lost in the crowd. Plus, when technology inevitably fails, older workers often know important workarounds to get the job done.
When I called my mother to tell her that my son still wasn’t sleeping through the night at nine months old, she told me that when I was a baby, the pediatrician told her to put rice cereal in my bottle before bed and I’d sleep like a baby. Earlier that same day, our pediatrician told me that current expert advice says not to give babies rice cereal in bottles. I’m pretty sure if I’d called my grandmother, she’d tell me to spoon feed him rice pudding as a bedtime snack.
Today’s expert advice and best practices are tomorrow’s old news, the things that our children and children’s children will mock. An employee who has seen trends and fads rise and fall and who understands that so much of what we deem important one moment will disappear the next can provide critical long-term perspective and ballast during professional storms. And at the end of a tough day, if she can tell you with the authority that comes with decades of personal and professional experience that as long as you keep showing up and working hard, it will all be okay in the end–she’s an employee who is worth her weight in gold.