ABOUT THE TALENT: Myth-busting
Despite growing awareness of the experience dividend of longer and healthier lives, ageism still exists and can result in barriers to engaging encore talent. Start by busting some common myths about older adults.
MYTH: Learning is harder with age.
TRUTH: Emerging research is clear: The brain continues to grow and form new neural pathways throughout our lives. This brain plasticity is the foundation for all learning. The mature brain is actually better at tasks that require complex problem-solving and information synthesis than younger brains. The bottom line? Mature adults learn new skills even as they strengthen existing competencies throughout their lives. And learning is a key motivator of engagement for adults who are 50+.
MYTH: A multigenerational workforce can be full of friction, particularly when younger people supervise older adults.
TRUTH: Most organizations navigate these relationships as a matter of practice. Adding encore talent expands a multigenerational workforce, building on an established foundation. Read more here about how younger staff can manage more experienced employees. For tips on easing these transitions, see “FEATURED RESOURCES” in the Engaging Encore Talent section of this toolkit.
MYTH: Older adults are not tech-savvy.
TRUTH: Many people 50+ have successfully adapted to tech-steeped environments in rapidly evolving workplaces. A far better approach is to look at fit: What technology does the worker need to use? What skills does s/he have? Can training bridge any gaps?
MYTH: People who’ve been in leadership roles (for-profit or nonprofit) won’t be satisfied with smaller roles.
TRUTH: Many encore-stage adults seek fulfillment through mission-driven work, with fewer responsibilities than in their primary careers. You can use interviews to understand a candidate’s motivation.
MYTH: Experienced workers are too expensive.
TRUTH: Managers often shy away from hiring applicants who have held high-paying positions. Encore.org’s 2014 survey reveals that people seeking purpose-driven encores weigh a variety of factors in encore career choices, including personally meaningful work, using skills in new ways and collaborating with new colleagues.
MYTH: Older workers will retire soon; I’ll lose my investment.
TRUTH: While there are are no guarantees in hiring, at any age, younger workers in general change jobs more frequently than older workers, who stay in jobs three times longer than their younger colleagues and are highly engaged, adding additional value, according to RetirementJobs.com. Workers under 50 pose a 49 percent risk of unplanned turnover vs. a 29 percent risk for older workers, according to an AARP report.
MYTH: Health care for older adults costs more.
TRUTH: As a group, older workers are healthy and vigorous: They take fewer sick days than younger workers, and some experts note that health insurance costs may be lower because older workers have fewer dependents.
Matt Morgan, Executive Director, Journey Home:
“Many of us are young here, and I look for a really diverse staff. I think people from all different backgrounds, different age groups, different ethnicities can really enrich the work that needs to get done especially when we’re talking about the homeless population that is so diverse.”
- AARP: Leading a Multigenerational Workforce
- Boston College Center for Work and Family: The Multi-generational Workforce: Management Implications and Strategies for Collaboration