5 Reasons to Go Gray

Hiring Mature Workers

Mature workers bring networks, work ethic, loyalty, focus and mentor-mentee relationships to the table.

Should we or shouldn't we? That seems to be the question when it comes to hiring mature workers. Here's a better question: Shouldn't we be ashamed? Mature workers, aka baby boomers, were born between 1946 and 1964. They've been through booms and busts, they've been hired and fired, they've worked their way up through the ranks of any number of different organizations — and some of them have even had businesses of their own. They've been mentored and they can mentor now. Many prefer to work part-time, seasonally or by project.

So what's not to like in a mature worker?

Bias Abounds

Plenty of things aren't to like, if you believe what some people have to say. As Fortune reports, one CEO of a technology company famously remarked, "Young people are just smarter." He's 34 now. While his personal age-to-smarts barometer is certain to have risen in the past 11 years, unfortunately the lens through which many people peer when searching for new candidates cracks when an applicant is (or appears) mature.

That's unfortunate, because the popular opinion just isn't true. Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts General Hospital report in Cosmos Magazine that "at any given age, you're getting better at some things, worse at other things, and plateau at some other things." In fact, "the ability to evaluate other people's emotional states [doesn't] peak until the 40s and 50s ... and the most stellar performers in vocabulary intelligence were participants in their late 60s and early 70s." The older a person gets, in other words, the better they communicate and deal with situations and people. It's because of their maturity, not in spite of it, that they have the experience and abilities to evaluate what's going on around them.

When the ability to communicate is critical (or you find yourself slapped with a discrimination suit), hiring someone with such honed abilities seems a good move.

Benefits Abound, Too

The move to consider hiring mature workers grows when you think about:

  • Networks: For the young or novice business owner, decades of warm connections handled by a familiar face can open numerous doors that would otherwise be locked.
  • Work ethic: A Pew Research Center "Social & Demographic Trends" study found that nearly 60 percent of respondents cited work ethic as a big difference between young and mature employees.
  • Loyalty: Mature workers give a much better return on investment in terms of training and development. A 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics report showed that the "length of time a worker remains with the same employer increases with the age at which the worker began the job."
  • Focus: Unlike many younger workers, mature employees aren't likely to be searching for the next opportunity. They know what they want and have to do and are focused on getting work done so they can attend to more important things outside of work.
  • Mentor-mentee relationships: Mature workers have advanced communication skills because they grew through the ranks without email, instant messaging, texting and social media. They can trade their communication (and leadership, negotiating and technical) skills for younger employees' high-tech know-how.

Baby boomers have a wealth of experience. They've seen technology develop, they know how to interact with and get the most out of people, they know how to lead and, most importantly, they have what it takes to teach all those elements Ñ and more! Ñ to the next generations. So why wouldn't you consider hiring mature workers?

And one final note: Not considering applicants based on age violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Violating age discrimination laws can get you into trouble, as Apple, Facebook, Google and others have learned.