Older Workers vs. Younger Workers

Mary Gormandy White
Deborah Russell Director of Workforce Issues, AARP
Deborah Russell Director of Workforce Issues, AARP

As it's becoming more common for people to stay in the workforce longer, employers and employees are increasingly interested in drawing comparisons between older workers vs. younger workers. Deborah Russell, Director of Workforce Issues at AARP, shared her insights about this important issue in the 21st Century work environment.

What are the primary differences between older workers vs. younger workers?

Most older workers have workplace experience that comes from years of experience in a working environment. What does that translate to? AARP research of the perception employers have about older workers indicate that older workers:

  • Have better attendance records
  • Have better customer service
  • Are loyal, reliable, and dependable

What benefits are there to employers for hiring mature workers?

AARP's Business Case Report indicates that, in addition to their work experience, the value of hiring of mature workers includes:

  • Low turnover rates: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data on tenure patterns by age group, the average tenure among all US workers is 3.7 years. However, the median job tenure for workers in the 55 - 64 age range is about 3.3 times that of workers 25-34 years old. Employers concerned about the risk of turnover should keep in mind the correlation between turnover and age and the cost of turnover.
  • High levels of engagement: Analysis conducted on the part of Towers Perrin, a management consulting firm, indicates that motivation and engagement not only do not decline with age but in fact, increase. According to data from a Towers Perrin 2003 study, workers age 55 and older are the most motivated, while the youngest workers are the least motivated.
  • Skill levels: Mature workers tend to have higher skill levels, particularly basic skills like math, reading and writing.

How does the process of recruiting older workers differ from that of looking for younger workers?

An employer may have to use non-traditional ways of recruiting mature workers including:

  • Participating in senior job fairs
  • Developing partnerships with local organizations that work with the mature market
  • Placing ads both online and in print that reflect the demographic you're trying to recruit
  • Running ads that describe the experience of working for your company

What age group trends do you see in the workforce?

  • AARP research shows that in general, younger workers have biases and concerns with managing older workers.
  • Boomers will redefine retirement by working longer. AARP research indicates that 70% of boomers intend on remaining in the workplace past traditional retirement age (65).
  • Workers in the Generation X group have reached middle-age and are seeking similar workplace benefits as older workers (i.e. caregiving, flexible work arrangements, training and development, etc.).

Why are more older workers staying in the workforce longer?

AARP research (Staying Ahead of the Curve: Work and Career) shows that 70% of boomers intend to work past traditional retirement age. The top two reasons are (1) money and (2) health insurance. In addition to the economic reasons for remaining working, the following reasons were also mentioned as reasons for remaining working longer:

  • Staying physically active
  • Staying mentally active
  • Wanting to give back
  • Being productive and useful

What factors do employers who want to attract mature workers need to focus on?

  • With a growing multi-generational workforce where mature workers will manage younger workers and younger workers will manage older workers, AARP suggests employers include age as part of their diversity training.
  • AARP research shows that mature workers seek the following workplace attributes:
    • Flexible work opportunities
    • Ongoing training and development
    • Age-neutral work practices and policies
    • Positive work environment
    • Value their work and experience

    Does AARP recognize employers who actively recruit and employ older workers?

    Yes, we have a program for recognizing companies that seek out older workers. The AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50 award recognizes companies for their positive policies and practices for mature workers. This award began in 2000 in an effort to recognize companies who recognize the value of the mature workforce. There is a 48-page application for this award, and it focuses on the following workplace practices:
  • Recruitment of mature workers
  • Training and development
  • Flexible work options
  • Benefits (with an emphasis on health and pension benefits)
  • Retiree relations

What benefits does AARP offer to mature individuals who are seeking to stay or re-enter the workforce?

AARP offers the following benefits for mature jobseekers:

  • National Employer Team : This program connects individual jobseekers with employers who are actively recruiting and hiring mature workers.
  • Retirementjobs.com: AARP is partnering with Retirementjobs.com which is a job board for mature workers. Retirementjobs.com has over 30,000 jobs on their web site and focuses on providing employers with an "age friendly seal" based on their application and vetting status.
  • AARP career site: AARP offers information and resources for individual jobseekers that includes:
    • Resume writing
    • Interviewing skills
    • Job search skills
    • Dealing with age bias
  • AARP WorkSearch: - This tool helps individuals assess their skills and identifies gaps in skills and training one can obtain to enhance their skills.

LoveToKnow Jobs would like to thank Deborah Russell for taking the time to share her expertise regarding older workers vs. younger workers.

Older Workers vs. Younger Workers