Posted by: goalpath | December 4, 2009

In the Workplace Who Makes a Better Employee – A Baby Boomer or Younger Generation Worker?

A recent report by the Pew Research Center’s Social and Demographic Trends project revealed that the recession is having a very different impact by age. The economic downturn is keeping older adults in the workforce longer and younger adults are having a difficult time finding employment and staying employed.

Older Americans, Baby Boomers in particular, have watched as their retirement and investment accounts have decreased significantly in value and their retirement plans have gone out the window. A great many Baby Boomers did not plan adequately for retirement and have come to the realization that Social Security won’t provide them with enough money to live on. These factors are  contributing to a shift in America’s employment demographics.

When employers review their employment practices, they have to look at both sides to this issue. Should they try to maintain an older, more experienced workforce or is it in their best interests to lower the average age of their employees? There are pluses and minuses to both of these strategies.

A great many employers believe that it makes more sense to keep their Baby Boomers working because they have more experience and job knowledge. Would you rather have an employee with 2 or 3 years of experience, or 25 years of experience? In the past, employees over 50 had health issues and declining mental acuity. Today, that is not the case. The Baby Boomer generation is healthier and more energetic than past generations. Score one for the Boomers.

Other employers, particularly those in emerging technologies and creative fields are looking for employees that can provide more “out of the box” thinking and innovative approaches to problem solving. The younger generation workers argue that they are better equipped for these types of positions. Steve Jobs, a Baby Boomer himself, might argue this point, although I am sure if you look at the age breakdown at Apple, their workers probably tend to be younger.

Another issue is cost. Younger employees tend to be less expensive than their older counterparts both in salary and benefits. I know a number of folks who have lost their jobs to younger workers simply because the employer wanted to reduce personnel costs and improve their bottom line.

On the other side of the coin, some employers believe that the older workers are more reliable, dependable and have a stronger work ethic. Then again, some employers believe that younger workers can’t match older workers in math and reading skills.

Younger workers are generally more skilled in using and applying technology to their jobs. Most have grown up with cell phones, social media and computers. So they have no fear when it comes to using or embracing new technologies to solve problems. 

Each group has its pluses and minuses. And my observations are for the most part, demographic generalizations. You will find that some older candidates are more in tune with technology than their younger rivals and some younger candidates are more likely to be more dependable than their older rivals. Some older candidates are willing to work for less and some younger candidates are able to do more with less experience.

Are you totally confused about who will make the best employee for your organization? What is the best approach to hiring? The best approach is to determine which candidate is the best fit for that particular position. But do remember that past history is the best predictor of future performance.

What is your take on this topic? Who would you hire? Does age play an important role in your hiring decisions?

If you are a Baby Boomer and haven’t joined our community, www.boomeropinion.com, please consider it. It is free and only takes a couple of minutes to sign up. You can share your viewpoint and voice your opinion on the critical issues facing America. And if we recruit enough of you, we can positively impact business and political policies around the country.

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