Labor Day 2008, I happily note that my employment
prospects are brighter today than they have been for
And this, despite my newly acquired status as a senior
As it happens, my particular skills that I would bring
to the work place—more general than specific—are in high
demand. And, in a stroke of unusual good fortune,
western Pennsylvania businesses are eagerly
No matter where I go—to the gas station, the convenience
Starbucks, any of the
retail giants like
Target, Ace Hardware or
Costco—positions are posted for all levels of
Giant Eagle, the large supermarket chain that services
Pennsylvania, has staffers old enough to be my father
pushing carts and stocking shelves.
Bruster's Real Ice Cream is looking for a production
job of my dreams.
That mature Americans are much in demand is no surprise.
The advantages we offer far outweigh our drawbacks.
AARP in conjunction with
Towers Perrin Consulting recently completed a
study that found that seniors offer six key
attributes not generally found in younger employees.
First, motivation. Older workers are among
the most motivated in the workplace, In fact,
employees over 50 are more likely to exceed
job expectations than younger workers. Highly
motivated employees are described as "extremely
likely" to satisfy customers, affect product
quality and control costs.
According to the study, workers 55 and older had an
average "motivation score" of 78.4, compared to
71.2 for those 18 to 29.
Companies with highly engaged workers, the study noted,
are more likely to exceed their industry-average revenue
growth and sport a lower than average cost of goods
- Second, experience. Seniors have accumulated
years of experience, know how to create a
positive work environment, deal with
management-employee friction and cope with erratic
superiors. Their extensive backgrounds mean firms
will not have to spend valuable time and money on
work ethic. According to the AARP study, 50-plus
employees demonstrate greater levels of
dependability and perseverance and remain
task-focused. Not only do those benefits pay off
directly but they also offer good, lasting role
models for younger workers.
- Fourth, customer service. Many retailers hire older
employees because they are more emotionally mature
and can better relate to customers. They understand
customer requests more quickly and convey their
employer's message more clearly clearer than
less experienced staff. Research indicates that
verbal communication, among other skills, increases
- Fifth, customer identification. Companies with an
older customer demographic hire more seniors because
they can identify with their clients' needs. That
builds a strong foundation that keeps customers
coming back. Seniors relate better to their peers
than do customer service representatives who are
less than half the shopper's age.
- Sixth, loyalty. Unlike younger employees, seniors
are less likely to job-hop. That builds a strong
foundation that keeps customers coming back. Also,
less employee turnover saves time and money for the
employer who avoids constantly advertising and
interviewing prospective workers. One estimate is
that it costs 50 percent or more of an individual's
salary to interview and train a new worker for a
Older workers have minuses, although only a few. We have
physical strength and are stubborn—that is, less
learn and perform new tasks.
Still, if my employer hands me the keys and tells me to
open the shop at 5:00 AM, he can rest easy the night
The logical conclusion is that companies should have two
sets of employees—young and old—to satisfy their
corporate requirements as well as their customers'
is a California native who recently fled the state
because of over-immigration, over-population and a
rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to
Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth
A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School,
Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It
currently appears in the