Remedy for the great resignation – hire older workers | H. Dennis Beaver | Columnists
A truly fascinating book, just published by psychology professor Becca Levy of Yale University, shatters many of the basic – and completely false – assumptions that we have been told are gospel about aging as far back as most of us can remember.
“Breaking the Age Code – How Your Beliefs About Aging Determine How Long and Well You Live,” provides answers to tough questions facing employers and America’s aging population itself.
Recently I had a conversation with Dr. Levy about the myths of aging – how age affects what we are able to do. If you thought that just turning the pages of a calendar meant a decline in mental and intellectual health and “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, then come here for a dog biscuit, for today’s story will dispel that belief.
For, as his book makes clear, “To think oneself old is a self-fulfilling and dangerous prophecy.”
She’s on a mission to convince an aging population to believe in themselves and realize that the candles on a cake have no connection to reality – to the person blowing them out or their employer.
I asked him to list several of the most common myths about aging and their consequences for our society, the business world, and each of us when we wake up one day with a wrinkle that didn’t exist before.
1 – Believe that your older workers are not as effective at work. Reduce their job responsibilities.
Research proves: Anecdotally and decades of research have shown that older workers take fewer sick days and reflect a strong work ethic that rubs off on younger colleagues. From their work experience – and life lessons – they often find effective shortcuts to get things done faster.
Moreover, giving in to such prejudice is an invitation to an age discrimination lawsuit.
2 – Being convinced that older workers do not have the capacity to be creative.
Studies show: Creativity often continues and increases later in life. Artists, including Matisse, are credited with producing their most innovative work at a later age. Many writers will admit that their skills – their craft – improve with age. The average age of “60 Minutes” journalists is 71!
Successful startups are more likely to be led by entrepreneurs over 50 than under 30. Certain skills combined with creativity allow us, as we age, to better solve problems at work.
Having resolved conflicts throughout a lifetime allows specific neurons to remain active to make connections – and better able to respond to new conflict situations that arise in each organization. Just getting older and successfully managing real-world conflict is a huge boon for employers.
3 – Older people in general do not contribute to society and are selfish. At work, they do not help their colleagues and think only of themselves.
Studies show: Older workers seek close, positive and productive relationships with their colleagues. After a lifetime in a particular field, they are better able to see the potholes that an employer must avoid.
Altruistic values were found to increase significantly, while selfish behaviors were rare. In general, older people engage in legacy thinking, wanting to help create a better world for their families, employers, friends, and a genuine desire to benefit society.
4 – Believing that health is entirely determined by genetics and biology and that attitude plays no role.
Studies show: You can simply shorten your own lifespan with this thought! Studies show that only 25% of longevity is genetically determined. The remaining 75% are due to the influence of the environment, psychological factors, personal beliefs and especially those concerning aging.
Culture in the form of beliefs about age has a powerful influence on the health of older people. Positive beliefs – the idea that I am competent in what I do, creative, and a good source of advice for family and friends – will greatly reduce the influence of propaganda that older people are losing these abilities. Positive beliefs have a proven impact on cardiovascular health, mental and psychological well-being.
5 – Believe that there is not much to be gained by hiring or training older employees in high tech, because you will be faced with ‘Old dog new tricks’ frustration.
Studies show: The brain, instead of reaching a maximum learning capacity around the age of 25 – the dogma of years ago – is in fact an organ capable of acquiring new skills at any age. Don’t let wrong thinking rob you of a real asset to your business.
6 – Failing to include age in diversity training programs.
Studies show: This failure will be seen as validation that older workers are worth less than younger ones. Surveys of employers in 78 countries showed that only 8% include age in diversity, equity and inclusion policies. Think what they lost!
Concluding our interview, Dr. Levy wants employers – from the small corner market of moms and pops to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies – to understand the reality facing America’s aging population.
“Not everyone wants to retire or will be financially able to. We know from decades of experience that an active mind and body keeps us healthy. Reinforcing positive beliefs about age gives us a longer, more productive, and happier life.
I can’t think of a better gift for that CEO – or spouse – who looks in the mirror and sees their mom or dad, wondering what life will be like for me as I get older? What can I do now to influence how I will be as these calendar pages go by so quickly?
“Breaking the Age Code – How Your Beliefs About Aging Determine How Long and Well You Live,” will give you the answer.