Sunday, September 21, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Some employers see perks of hiring older workers

David Mintz

David Mintz CEO of Tofutt, which makes dairy-free products, says he wants his employees to have the trademarks of youth: energy and enthusiasm, fresh thinking and quickness to catch on — and he's finding them in older workers. AP photo

By
From page A9 | October 04, 2013 |

By Matt Sedensky

Older people searching for jobs have long fought back stereotypes that they lack the speed, technology skills and dynamism of younger applicants. But as a wave of baby boomers seeks to stay on the job later in life, some employers are finding older workers are precisely what they need.

“There’s no experience like experience,” said David Mintz, CEO of dairy-free products maker Tofutti, where about one-third of the workers are over 50. “I can’t put an ad saying, ‘Older people wanted,’ but there’s no comparison.”

Surveys consistently show older people believe they experience age discrimination on the job market, and although unemployment is lower among older workers, long-term unemployment is far higher. As the American population and its labor force reshape, though, with a larger chunk of older workers, some employers are slowly recognizing their skill and experience.

About 200 employers, from Google to AT&T to MetLife, have signed an AARP pledge recognizing the value of experienced workers and vowing to consider applicants 50 and older.

One of them, New York-based KPMG, has found success with a high proportion of older workers, who bring experience that the company says adds credibility. The auditing, tax and advisory firm says older workers also tend to be more dedicated to staying with the company, a plus for clients who like to build a relationship with a consultant they can count on to be around for years.

“Some Gen Ys and Millennials have this notion of, ‘I will have five jobs in 10 years,’” said Sig Shirodkar, a human resources executive at KPMG. “We’re looking for ways to tame that beast.”

Many employers find older workers help them connect with older clients. At the Vermont Country Store in Rockingham, Vt., the average customer is now in their 60s, and about half of the business’ 400 workers are over 50, coming from a range of professional backgrounds, often outside retail. “Having folks internally that are in the same demographic certainly helps to create credibility and to have empathy for our customer,” said Chris Vickers, the store’s chief executive.

One such employee is 60-year-old Ashley Roland, who got a marketing job at the Vermont Country Store last year after the company she previously worked for shut down. She dreaded the thought of a marathon of unsuccessful interviews, but the store ended up recruiting her.

“When I was being hired, I didn’t feel any kind of concern about my age,” she said. “I believe in experience. I think you’re crazy not to hire someone who’s older.”

Even when the customers themselves might not be seniors, employers find older adults bring a level of life experience that helps them in their work. About 20 percent of the roughly 26,000 customer service, sales and technical support agents working for Miramar, Fla.-based Arise Virtual Solutions are 50 or older, and chief executive John Meyer said they often find ways to connect with the caller on the other end of the line.

“Having someone who is more senior, who has had some life scars, makes them much better at interacting with people,” Meyer said. “This is a chance for them to use the skills that they have built up over their life.”

The embrace of older workers by some companies comes as the country’s demographics shift and a greater number of people stay on the job later in life, some because of personal choice, others out of necessity after their retirement savings took a hit during the recession. Between 1977 and 2007, employment of workers 65 and older doubled, a trend that has stayed on track and is projected to continue as the massive baby boom generation moves toward old age. But long-term unemployment has plagued older adults: Nearly half of those 55 and older who find themselves jobless remain out of work for 27 weeks or more.

Many companies still tend to overlook older applicants. Peter Cappelli, a University of Pennsylvania professor who co-authored “Managing the Older Worker,” said because the economy has remained relatively weak and demand for jobs has been so high, many employers haven’t been pressed to directly recruit older individuals.

Stereotypes have prevailed. Hiring managers often still view older applicants as having lower job performance, higher absenteeism and accident rates, and less ability to solve problems and adapt to changes. But Capelli said research has found older workers outpace younger ones in nearly every metric. And in jobs where age might be a detriment — say, a highly physical job beyond a particular older person’s ability — seniors tend to exclude themselves from applying in the first place.

“The evidence is overwhelming that they’re better,” Cappelli said. “But the hiring managers are just going with their guts, and our guts are full of prejudice.”

Paul Lugo, 69, of Kendall Lakes, Fla., has felt that prejudice. After decades of work in business development and customer service at various companies, Lugo found himself unemployed about two years ago. He needs the money, but no one wants to hire him.

“I’ve been to every mall, I’ve gone to the TSA, I’ve gone through thousands of applications,” he said, “but I get the same thing: ‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you.’”

Lugo relies on occasional jobs as an extra in movies and television shows to supplement his Social Security check. He has even offered on job interviews to work for free for a week to prove he’s worth hiring, but no one has taken him up on it.

“With my experience, I’ve learned so much,” he said. “As a senior citizen, I have a lot to contribute to a company if they allow me, but they never give me a chance.”

But older workers are just what Michelle Benjamin, CEO of TalentREADY, a New York-based consulting firm, is looking for. She holds open houses specifically aimed at recruiting them. About three-quarters of the company’s senior employees are over 50. They often cost more to hire, Benjamin said, but they don’t require much training or supervision, and end up paying for themselves with the quality of work.

“Clients are paying us to get to the bottom line really quickly,” she said.

Mintz admits his own age, 82, fuels his support of older workers. But he echoes Capelli, saying he sees daily proof among the older individuals he has hired at Cranford, N.J.-based Tofutti: Fewer absences, fewer mistakes, a greater ability to solve problems and a willingness to put in more hours.

Though workers in highly physical warehouse jobs at his company skew younger, and older employees are not as adept in technology driven roles, Mintz says overall their experience pays off.

“They’re loaded with knowledge,” he said. “They can teach the young whippersnappers.”

— Matt Sedensky, an AP reporter on leave, is studying aging and workforce issues as part of a one-year fellowship at the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which joins NORC’s independent research and AP journalism. The fellowship is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and supported by APME, an association of AP member newspapers and broadcast stations.  Follow Sedensky on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sedensky.

Comments

comments

The Associated Press

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Bet Haverim hosts High Holy Day services

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1

     
    Elementary school counselors: necessary, but poorly funded

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Teams assess damage as wildfire burns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Driver arrested for DUI after Saturday morning crash

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

     
    Davis Community Meals needs cooks

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Help raise funds for juvenile diabetes cure

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Jewelry, art for sale at Senior Center

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Da Vinci awarded $38,000 for restorative justice program

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

     
    Hawk Hill trip planned Sept. 30

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    UC campus chancellors granted hefty pay raises

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

     
    Send kids to camp!

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Outdoor yoga marathon celebrates community

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Wise words

    By Sue Cockrell | From Page: A12

     
    .

    Forum

    Awareness is key to this fight

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    We’re living in the Golden State of emergency

    By Debra DeAngelo | From Page: A6

    Options for protection come with flu season

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

     
    Are we there yet? Not enough hours in the day to goof off

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A6Comments are off for this post

    It’s time for Davis Scouts to stand up for what is right

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

     
    Mike Keefe cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

    Building something at schools’ HQ

    By Our View | From Page: A10

     
    Don’t sell city greenbelt

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Paso Fino project is flawed

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Paso Fino — it’s not worth it

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Archer will get my vote

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Maybe David can beat Goliath again

    By Lynne Nittler | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    Speak out

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    .

    Sports

    DHS gets on its Morse to beat Edison

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    JV Blue Devils drop low-scoring affair

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B2

     
    Republic FC’s fairy tale season continues

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    Wire briefs: Giants rally falls short in San Diego

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

     
    Four local swimmers qualify for Olympic Trials

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

    ‘We’re a way better team’ than record, says UCD’s Shaffer

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B4 | Gallery

     
    UCD roundup: Aggie men pound Pomona-Pitzer in the pool

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B4

    Davis 15-year-old making a splash in European F4 series

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B8 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    ‘Ladies Foursome’ adds shows

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    .

    Business

    UCD grad’s startup earns kudos at TechCrunch event

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    Styles on target for November debut

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A7

    MBI hires VP of marketing

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Taylor Morrison unveils new Woodland community next weekend

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Rob White: What is an ‘innovation center’?

    By Rob White | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Carol L. Walsh

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, September 21, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B8