Two recent conversations with old friends were the catalyst for this article. Each of them centered around the value of experience and how it can best be utilized by employees and employers.
The first conversation came in the form of a phone call from an, experienced commercial construction Superintendent who was approaching retirement age.
We shared experiences with past projects and caught up on the projects he had completed since we last visited, but what he had really wanted to talk about was the future. He was straightforward as always:
“Dutch, I’d like to continue to work but as a journeyman Superintendent for a solid company that values employees experience and knowledge. I’m not ready to retire and have a lot to give to the right company and our industry. Can you help me find a good company?”
My friend had made the paradigm shift in his thinking about experience that so many people in their 50’s and 60s are making about their work:
“I’m not over the hill…I’m on top of the mountain!”
Experience is invaluable and there’s only one way to get it…put in the time that is necessary to accumulate it by learning.
“There are no short cuts to experience.”
The second conversation was with a friend who owns his own business and was reflecting on the value of his experienced employees. Years ago he worked for a international auto manufacturer and was witness to the cost of ignoring experience. The company decided to save money by offering early retirement buy-outs of thousands of “older” employees.
This is what he told me: “So the company decided they were going to clear out all the guys over 50 and save a basketful of money. What they didn’t realize is that these were the people we went to for answers to problems we hadn’t come up against before.
“They had the answers.”
“After the company had wiped out their collective knowledge, we spent much more time and money necessary figuring things out because the experienced people with the answers had been shown the door.”
This penny wise but human resource foolish policy sent the company into a quality crisis. Technical problems became the norm for their vehicles, sales plummeted as did profits and it took a decade for them to repair their Brand. This all could have been avoided if they had taken the time to look past short term monetary gains.
“Age should have nothing to do with employment.
It’s not only foolish, it’s illegal.”
I’ve heard lot’s of reasons used to disqualify elderly candidates for jobs because of their age. None of them were based in reality, but rather personal prejudices and twisted logic.
One recurring reason given is that the elderly candidate cannot learn as fast as younger employees who have more nimble minds and can think “outside the box” more easily than their older colleagues.
Science tells the true story.
Psychologist now believe that there are two basic kinds of intelligence…fluid and crystallized.
Their studies suggest that intelligence is composed of a number of different abilities that interact and work together to produce overall individual intelligence.
Fluid Intelligence involves being able to think and reason abstractly and solve problems. This ability is considered independent of learning, experience, and education.
Crystallized Intelligence involves knowledge that comes from prior learning and past experiences. This type of intelligence is based upon facts and rooted in experiences. As we age and accumulate new knowledge and understanding, crystallized intelligence becomes stronger.
Here’s the important part for companies reviewing the entire spectrum of the available labor pool:
Both types of intelligence increase throughout childhood and adolescence. Fluid intelligence peaks in adolescence and begins to decline around age 30 or 40. Crystallized intelligence continues to grow throughout adulthood.
Companies that have comprehensive hiring practices that investigate the individual applicant’s qualifications and remove age as a filter are doing themselves a big favor. Intelligence is a combination of Fluid and Crystallized Intelligence hence the argument for a diverse workforce.
“Experience is much more than a list of past projects on a resume, knowledge is learned and accumulated and wisdom is earned.”
Combine these simple myth busting facts with Conative skill testing and you’ll hire the people your company really deserves…and enjoy a huge competitive advantage.
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