The Top 5 Things that Employers Should Know About Employees Over 50

Don’t get fooled by the headlines reporting the shrinking workforce and the challenges in building sustainable talent. 

What leaders are ignoring is the strong pipeline that exists with the over 50 cohort who are ready and able to jump right in – the “difference makers.”

So much has been said over the past two years about the importance of gender and race diversity in the workplace yet, many leaders fail to include age diversity as a key component to a transformative successful workforce. According to PwC, only 8 percent of organizations include age as a part of their D&I strategies. So, 92 percent are missing the mark.

Some have described employees over 50 as loyal and reliable. While these characteristics may describe some employees over 50, they are far from the most impactful traits this cohort brings to the table.

Today, just over 34 percent of the US population is aged 50+, and these numbers are rapidly rising. If you’re worried about a shortage of top talent – take a hard look at this growing part of the population.

Let’s explore the Top 5 things to know about employees over 50:

  1. They are the most experienced workers

Employees over 50 ushered in the digital age by embracing the Internet, they experienced the wild and greedy 80’s, witnessed the horrors of 9/11, and survived the Financial Crash of 2008. They have more grounded and flexible communication abilities both verbal and non-verbal. The pre-Covid workplace made onboarding easier – much was learned through the ad hoc learning of “walking the halls!”

  1. There is value in mentoring and reverse-mentoring.

A combination of mentoring and reverse mentoring creates a strong culture that helps attract and retain talent across multi-generations. Reverse-mentoring helps senior executives become more sophisticated about social media, drive culture change, and promote diversity. At the same time, mentoring allows senior executives the opportunity to share their years of lived experience. A clear advantage of the multi-generational workforce is the exchange and integration of ideas – both directions. Who wouldn’t want to be with an organization known for developing its employees?

  1. They are tech-savvy

When you think of Elon Musk (Inventor, Visionary), Satya Nadella (CEO, Microsoft), Kimberly Bryant (Founder, Black Girls Code), and Sheryl Sandberg (former COO, Meta) do you think tech laggard or tech evangelist?  These leaders in tech are over 50 and bring innovation and lived experience to the table creating magic and possibilities for future generations.

Over 50s have the ability to “combine tech-savvy with communication skills – almost without exception, it’s easier for older workers to pick up more tech skills than younger workers, who are tech savvy, to pick up communication skills” according to Paul Bernard, Executive coach and contributor to Next Avenue, a website for Over 50.

  1. They have strong networks.

Over 50 workers have developed a mosaic of relationships across companies, industries and communities that contribute to an organization’s business results. These relationships are helpful when looking to attract talent, seek strategic alliance partnerships, or even get media or press placement. The opportunities to leverage relationships are endless and the Over 50 cohort has built these contacts over decades.

  1. They are more than just loyal and reliable  

Two of the most frequently cited benefits of hiring Over 50 workers is their perceived loyalty and reliability. Although these are two attractive characteristics for a worker of any age, it is like comparing the Over 50 worker to a trusty canine who does what she is told and is a compliant and docile persona. This cohort includes actor Viola Davis, President Barack Obama, musician David Grohl, and Fintech visionary, Sallie Krawcheck.  They are better described as accountable and intentional. They take responsibility for their actions, appreciate their impact, and are invested in their brand and what they represent. Leveraging these qualities of the Over 50 cohort translates to enhanced retention and overall performance improvement. 

It’s time to know and appreciate the over 50 employee – the “difference makers.” Employees over 50 are a valuable asset to any company, and by understanding and appreciating these qualities, employers can start to close talent gaps and create work environments that leverage the best of a multi-generational workforce.

Lynne Murphy-Rivera is Managing Director, Americas at the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC).

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