BY SHARON HILLSTROM
Business owners tell us that finding and keeping employees is one of their top challenges. Many efforts in the region have focused on recruiting young talent, and the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. has been engaged with and supports those initiatives.
While it’s important to attract and retain youthful employees, we shouldn’t ignore the value of mature talent. In fact, a multi-generational workforce – where different generations work together in an intentionally led culture – can be a powerful community asset.
Our population is ageing, and more people work longer. In the Manatee-Sarasota region, many retirees still want to work, and they possess the “soft” skills and work ethic that make them excellent employees.
Employers across the nation are benefiting from recruiting mature talent. Some examples from New York came to my attention through the Age Smart Employer Award program, a project of Columbia University’s Columbia Aging Center at the Mailman School of Public Health. The award highlights industries and businesses using strategic practices to hire and retain valuable workers over age 50.
Here are a few examples of honorees:
A utility company recruits workers with more than 20 years of experience directly from competitors, makes paths to advancement clear, and invites retirees to work as instructors in training centers or during emergencies.
A K-12 school retains teachers and staff with benefits like sabbaticals after 10 years for faculty, “passion grants” for all workers to support their interests, and job restructuring, like reassigning former classroom teachers as outdoor coordinators.
A manufacturer offers ample internal advancement opportunities (most of its leadership began as factory laborers), flexibility for workers on the administrative side to change work locations or hours, and is developing a partnership with a German company to start a four-month training academy.
An accounting firm designs workspace based on the input of its staff, gives everyone a mentor, provides phased retirement, and lets accountants set their hours however they wish across seven days.
A multi-generational workforce is more than hiring mature talent. It’s a leadership and culture choice to intentionally integrate the generations to benefit each employee and the business. “Reverse mentoring” allows younger employees to learn from the life experience and business intuition of mature teammates, while older employees can learn new tech and approach problem-solving through the perspective of younger employees.
Mike Jeffries, president of Mader Electric Inc. based in South Manatee County, has 30 employees ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s. He says that the Manatee-Sarasota region is ripe for recruiting retirees who are looking for a challenge and want to increase their income.
“We find job candidates with great experience and knowledge. They don’t require as much supervision and have strong work ethics. If they’re in good health, they make perfect employees,” he said. “I’m in my 70s, and I like to think that 70 is the new 50.”
Since his business relies on employees with technical skills, Jeffries values that his mature workers provide valuable training to younger employees. His younger employees appreciate the advanced knowledge of people with decades of experience. Jeffries said he’ll even have young people interview older candidates for jobs to assess their knowledge and judge their ability to fit into the team.
At the Bradenton Area EDC, we want to learn from more local businesses that are developing a multi-generational workforce. We want to share their stories and lessons learned with other organizations to foster this community asset. If your business has a related story to share, please contact Jennifer Linzy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s a treasure trove of over-50 talent in the region. Putting that talent to work with other generations in an intentional way – that’s a valuable asset worth exploring and utilizing.