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View From Lodi, CA Pittsburgh, PA: Joe Has Retired From Education But Will He Return To The Salt Mines?
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August 29, 2008, 05:00 AM
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On Labor Day 2008, I happily note that my employment prospects are brighter today than they have been for three decades.

And this, despite my newly acquired status as a senior citizen!

As it happens, my particular skills that I would bring to the work place—more general than specific—are in high demand. And, in a stroke of unusual good fortune, western Pennsylvania businesses are eagerly recruiting workers.

No matter where I go—to the gas station, the convenience store, Starbucks, any of the retail giants like Target, Ace Hardware or Costco—positions are posted for all levels of employees.

Giant Eagle, the large supermarket chain that services Pennsylvania, has staffers old enough to be my father pushing carts and stocking shelves.

Bruster`s Real Ice Cream is looking for a production manager, the job of my dreams.

That mature Americans are much in demand is no surprise. The advantages we offer far outweigh our drawbacks.

AARP in conjunction with Towers Perrin Consulting recently completed a study that found that seniors offer six key attributes not generally found in younger employees.

  • First, motivation. Older workers are among the most motivated in the workplace, In fact, employees over 50 are more likely to exceed job expectations than younger workers. Highly motivated employees are described as "extremely likely" to satisfy customers, affect product quality and control costs.

According to the study, workers 55 and older had an average "motivation score" of 78.4, compared to 71.2 for those 18 to 29.

Companies with highly engaged workers, the study noted, are more likely to exceed their industry-average revenue growth and sport a lower than average cost of goods sold.

  • Second, experience. Seniors have accumulated years of experience, know how to create a positive work environment, deal with management-employee friction and cope with erratic superiors. Their extensive backgrounds mean firms will not have to spend valuable time and money on training.

  • Third, work ethic. According to the AARP study, 50-plus employees demonstrate greater levels of dependability and perseverance and remain task-focused. Not only do those benefits pay off directly but they also offer good, lasting role models for younger workers.

  • Fourth, customer service. Many retailers hire older employees because they are more emotionally mature and can better relate to customers. They understand customer requests more quickly and convey their employer`s message more clearly clearer than less experienced staff. Research indicates that verbal communication, among other skills, increases with age.

  • Fifth, customer identification. Companies with an older customer demographic hire more seniors because they can identify with their clients` needs. That builds a strong foundation that keeps customers coming back. Seniors relate better to their peers than do customer service representatives who are less than half the shopper`s age.

  • Sixth, loyalty. Unlike younger employees, seniors are less likely to job-hop. That builds a strong foundation that keeps customers coming back. Also, less employee turnover saves time and money for the employer who avoids constantly advertising and interviewing prospective workers. One estimate is that it costs 50 percent or more of an individual`s salary to interview and train a new worker for a position.

Older workers have minuses, although only a few. We have less physical strength and are stubborn—that is, less willing to learn and perform new tasks.

Still, if my employer hands me the keys and tells me to open the shop at 5:00 AM, he can rest easy the night before.

The logical conclusion is that companies should have two sets of employees—young and old—to satisfy their corporate requirements as well as their customers` needs.

Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.