Convincing employers to hire older workers is proving tricky

Laurence Malley has a degree in mechanical engineering, is a wizard with a computer and has 35 years of experience in the automotive industry. But at 62, the Vancouver man can’t even get hired as a delivery person, let alone in the management positions for which he’s qualified.

“The majority of people interviewing me are half my age,” says Malley, hastening to add he isn’t picky with his choice of position.

This article was published by The Globe and Mail on April 15th 2012.  To see this article and other related articles on The Globe and Mail website, please click here

“I was (previously) making $90,000, plus a car and expenses. Well, I’ve applied for jobs offering half that – and then I’m overqualified. I’ve tried part-time, full-time, different segments of the industry, RV jobs. I even applied to be a parts delivery driver.”

Canada is looking at a worker shortfall of two to three million employees over the next 30 years, assuming current demographic and labour trends hold. If everyone were to postpone retirement until at least age 66, however, economists say it would add roughly two million people back into the workforce by 2040.

But convincing employers to keep or hire older workers is proving tricky, as Malley’s experience illustrates.

Part 1: Welcome to the aging – and ageist – workplace

The solutions centre on finding ways to reward both employee and employer for embracing the mature worker.

Jeff Moir, partner at Deloitte’s consulting group, proposes a number of strategies that companies, governments and older employees should consider. They range from job-sharing programs to virtual work, flexible hours, contract positions – even changes in pension structure, so older employees aren’t punished if they take jobs that reduce their income in their final years of work.

He also pushes for better management-level education about how different generations can work together successfully in an organization.

“I don’t understand the appeal of Twitter. But that doesn’t mean I can’t work effectively with the 25-year-olds on my team,” says Moir.

What are some of the other solutions to the age-discrimination paradox?

1). Stay current, and adapt to change. It’s true for any worker, but perhaps more so for the older set.

Sara Parker, the 30-year-old program director at Lite 95.7 and Hot 107 in Edmonton, says it’s imperative that her employees always be two steps ahead.

“I find that there are some times where, maybe, the older generation is unwilling to make those two steps,” says Parker, though she believes it’s less about age than agility.