RETIREES might feel unwanted and not needed in the workplace, especially when younger colleagues treat them like yesterday’s coffee.
But, in fact, retirees are still very much wanted and needed in the workplace. As long as they can do the job, the door still seems to be open to them.
Chef Barbara Johnson, in her 40s, says she would hire a retiree. In fact, she believes they are a valuable asset to the workforce.
“They have a wealth of experience, expertise, life skills and knowledge. They also have a huge amount of self-discipline and take a lot of pride in their work. You will find a retiree is also very focused on the task at hand and will strive to complete the job with perfection. Bear in mind that a lot of retirees were in the same job for decades, unlike the younger generation of employees who change jobs a lot.
“University degrees and college diplomas do not offer experience as part of the course; this can only come through working and hands-on tasks. They also tend to be better time managers and manage deadlines more easily. I find that younger people tend to leave things till the last minute which then leads to errors or sometimes less than satisfactory outcomes.
“Retirees can do much to contribute to a younger workforce. We underestimate the power of mentoring in society. Even if a retiree is unable to do physical labour, they can share experiences and knowledge in a training, mentoring and assessing capacity,” she adds.
Laws and ethics
Johnson, who lives and works in Perth, Australia, says they would firstly need to be willing to adhere to the code of ethics to which an organisation operates.
“Additionally, retirees have to adhere to updated Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) laws and practices in a workplace. Things have changed a lot, especially in Australia where OH&S is an integral part of work culture to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all employees,” she adds.
Maznida Mokhtar, also in her 40s, says retirees might perhaps be more suitable for an advisory role rather than the day-to-day operations.
“Their experience, vision and ideas can open the eyes of the younger ones. However, we also would like to see new ideas, innovations and creativity which comes more from the younger generation. The retirees then could be valuable in terms of providing the check and balance of whether these innovations can work practically, in their experience,” she adds.
Maznida, who is group chief financial officer and co-founder of technology company Skali Group, admits that the rapid pace of the IT industry results in younger people being more in demand than older ones who may not be as tech-savvy and able to adapt to changes fast enough.
Good work ethic
Chief executive officer of an elearning company Tang Kok Keong, 52, believes the country needs the knowledge, skills, experience and talent that the retirees have, even if they need to be re-trained for new tasks. He believes that retirees usually have comparatively good communication skills and work ethic.
“I would hire retirees if they are suitably qualified for a job as they usually show dedication and commitment. They are also usually upfront about expectations and realistic about situations.
“Being more careful, thoughtful and deliberate can be great assets especially if they have the time-tested values of diligence and loyalty,” says Tang.
Retailer Yogesh Thaker, 51, agrees, saying he believes retirees would be more loyal and committed to the job, rather than younger workers.
“The younger and more ambitious will generally leave for greener pastures and better prospects, where else the retiree has most probably been there and done that,” he says.
Not many applications
While entrepreneur in the technology, training and consultancy sectors Victor Loh, 38, is not against hiring retirees, he doesn’t see them applying for jobs.
He believes that what matters is their ability to meet the job requirements.
“My experience as a customer with companies who hire retirees in Singapore has been mostly positive. The notable exception was at the airport where the seniors hired were less tactful in dealing with those waiting to check in at the airline counters,” says Loh, who doesn’t believe there is discrimination against retirees trying to gain re-employment.
“I don’t see enough senior candidates who are open to being hired. Perhaps this is due to the fact that we do a lot of hiring through online and social media channels, which they are not as familiar with. If there was a resource or community that offers access to seniors for hire, I would be very open to checking them out,” he adds.
Is there discrimination?
Maznida believes that we live in a fairly young and vibrant society where many of the young ones are still unemployed. “I believe because of this, if only for ‘bodies’ to do the work, employers would tend to prefer the young ones, who are cheaper and more able-bodied.”
Johnson believes it goes beyond the salary.
“I think that often the interviewer is intimidated by the wealth of experience and knowledge held by the older person. An older person knows their worth and therefore is able to ask for a higher salary.
“They are also well aware of their rights which a lot of employers don’t like and see as a threat to their own jobs. It all depends of course on the integrity of the company and the person conducting the interview.
“We tend to have an older workforce in Australia. Most people in their 60s are still working either in a full-time, part-time or voluntary capacity,” she says.
In Malaysia, her 74-year-old ex-army officer father who retired in 1989 is still working. He is a trainer and mentor, who keeps himself active and busy, earning a good income helping and teaching thousands of younger people in the workforce.
“Age and mobile ability should not be a reason not to hire an older person. There is always a way to incorporate a retiree into the workforce, in this age of computers and also machines that can do heavy lifting and other tasks.
“A progressive workplace will embrace the experience that an older worker has to offer and in turn help the worker to maintain their self-esteem, sense of self-worth and belonging, as well as keeping them financially stable. It is important for community and social wellbeing,” says Johnson, who believes there is no room for ageism in the workplace.