The entrepreneurial world is often populated by young, dynamic professionals who can navigate the latest tech and propel big visions into being. However, in order to create a lasting company, experts say, you need a diversity of ages to balance the highs and lows of running a business and to draw on the depth and richness available.
“From a psychological perspective, we tend to hire people that look like us, act like us and have similar experiences,” says Jessica Prater, who calls herself the Chief Everything Officer at her company, J Prater Consulting in Nashville, Tenn.
“I’m a firm believer that the more diverse a workforce you can hire, the better you will serve your customers,” Prater says. She specifically recommends looking to your elders.
Hiring older adults can mean bringing in a wealth of experience and history in business that a young founder or employee just might not have.
WISDOM IS PRICELESS
“[Older adults] can bring great tips and insight into a growing company, which can save time, money, prevent problems and get them on the road to being in the black,” says Rafe Gomez, co-owner of VC Inc, Marketing, a company that provides business strategy and sales support to companies, based in Montclair N.J.
Prater says one benefit of hiring older adults is that they have what she calls “value from the evolutionary side of things” by having lived through cycles of an industry or a workplace, which a younger person might not have. “[In the ten years] I’ve been in human resources, social media and training delivery have changed so much that I have a different perspective than someone in the first couple of years of their career,” she explains.
Additionally, “Somebody that has had longer tenure in the workplace can deal with conflict because it’s not their first rodeo,” Prater says. “Someone who is fairly new to business might not know how to navigate those seasons.”
Kaben Clauson, co-founder and CEO of TruePublic, an opinion platform where people can discuss a diverse range of issues, based in Chicago, Ill., says he’s hired people in their 40s and 50s and is grateful for the patience and focus they bring and their ability to dive right in on tasks.
“When you give someone with more experience a task, the odds of them having a transferrable skill from a previous job is much higher than someone who’s 28,” Clauson says.
Older adults also have greater maturity and the ability to think through the logistics of a problem, and act with accountability, Clauson says. “There’s wisdom that comes with age. It’s inevitable. Older people are just tougher. They can handle the crap of a day better.”
In fact, Clauson says that sometimes younger folks can be a liability or take longer to train and get up to speed. “A young person might have all the adaptability in the word but maybe they don’t have good grit. There’s a seriousness that comes with older employees.”
LET GO OF LIMITING BIASES
Moreover, Prater warns that biases about older folks being set in their ways or unable to take risks or grow are usually incorrect. “I see that in every generation and every age group, people who are more or less willing to change.”
Clauson says that there is also an erroneous belief, especially in the tech industry, that older adults won’t be able to learn the new technology they need to know, but he says this is not true.
Finding good older employees may mean changing how you screen and hire candidates. Clauson says he doesn’t find resumes very helpful in hiring because a piece of paper won’t reveal the particulars you need to know.
“You have to find someone that’s a good cultural fit. What we do is more a style of scenario role playing where we talk about potential challenges and have the candidate tell us how they would solve that challenge.”
Ultimately, “if you really want to create something that’s going to deliver value for shareholders, employees, marketplace you have to take it very seriously,” Gomez insists. “An older worker is not going to want to waste their time.”