5 (or more) Reasons to Go Grey

December 14, 2015

Depending on what market you’re in, you may be finding that good employees are in short supply. As the economy heats up, the demand for retail-level employees is starting to create problems throughout all industries. To maintain your roster of employees, especially throughout the holiday season, you may have to get creative as you search for the newest member of your team.

Certainly, you can try all the usual avenues for finding new hires. Craigslist, the local want ads, the job board at your local college and referrals. But don’t forget that your best employee may be coming from a different direction.

A recent article in the Business Journals highlighted a statistic stating there are now almost 4,000,000 more workers between the ages of 60 to 64 than there was in 2005. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one third of America’s workers are over 50, and employees over the age of 65 outnumber teenage workers. That’s a lot of old people!

So it’s inevitable you’re going to get applications from “experienced” workers. Just as the term “used cars” has evolved into the term “pre-owned cars,” workers in the twilight of their careers are being repackaged to emphasize their experience and talent rather than their age. They’re not “used”, they’re “seasoned.”

You may be surprised to learn that older workers come with several advantages over younger employees. An article on the American Express Open Forum website, gives five advantages for hiring workers over 55. (

  1. Older workers make good leaders. They know how to use their communication skills. While younger workers are well-versed in technology like texting and social media, the older worker tends to be extremely comfortable dealing with face-to-face communication. They’re not shy about running a team. And they are often quick to give advice (which may or may not be a good thing).
  2. These workers know what they want. As a retail employee, they’re not just “passing through” on the way to their long-term career. So instead of having an employee who’s just biding his or her time, you have an employee who is excited to be working and stay active in the workplace.
  3. Older employees are loyal. They understand the importance of being true to the organization that hires them. And, let’s face it, they’re probably not going to be job-hopping or head-hunted by the competition.
  4. Older workers have a great work ethic. A survey published by Ranstad Work Solutions, shows that being ethical is rated as “extremely or very important” by 90% of workers over 55. A survey of younger workers, including Gen X and Gen Y, drops that response to around 66%. Older employees understand the value of a paycheck. They know they have to earn their pay. It’s been my experience, that vintage employees are bang-on reliable. They show up on time – every day, and they tend to leave the drama at home.
  5. Older workers have strong networks. While this may not be critical to all businesses, it does make the experienced employee a greater asset to the store.

By hiring an older employee you gain from the overall experience and perspective they bring to the workplace. While some may not be as technically savvy as a Millennial, they’re smart and can pick up what they need to know pretty fast – and don’t forget their abundance of people skills. For a smart store operator, their life experience can be tapped to help the store with marketing, organization, operations, inventory control, and customer service.

Perhaps the most important reason to consider the older employee is that they tend to be grateful for the opportunity. While some younger employees think they are doing you a favor by being there, the older employee knows that when their resume include hire dates that begin in the 1960s, many employers will see them as obsolete.

In reality, it’s not years, it’s the mileage. Some of you may already be lucky enough to have experienced this, but many an older employee is in it for the long haul.

Steve White is a writer and entrepreneur based in Denver.

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