Balancing Innovation: Don’t Discount the Value of Experience
What do Coca Cola, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Kaiser Permanente have in common apart from being multinational corporations? They were all founded by people over the age of 50. Ray Kroc took over the McDonald’s brand in his 50s and turned it into the largest fast food joint in the world (now overtaken by Subway). The point is, innovation and great brands are not something always grown from a young age (under 40) and the passionate energy of youth. Sometimes a little experience and know-how are needed. For example, you could argue that Facebook did not really take off until Peter Thiel, Sean Parker, and Jim Breyer got involved – admittedly none of them were over 50 at the time, but they were experienced.
No Scrapheap in a World without Retirement
The average age of retirement across the western world is rising. Partly, this is related to government policies increasing the minimum retirement age for state subsidies and pensions, but also because better health means people want to work longer. At the same time, there is increased pressures on pension pots, healthcare costs, housing costs, and the cost of living. Some believe, especially since Trump’s proposed changes to fiduciary advisor regulations, that retirement will soon cease to exist for all but the richest among us.
A knock on result for people in their 60s is that dwindling job opportunities mixed with fewer financial tools will lead to greater levels of poor health, unemployment, homelessness, and stress. This causes further problems down the line with an inability to pay for hospice care, dependency on children and grandchildren, and ultimately, an inability to pay off basic financial issues after death such as estate taxes, inheritance fees, burial costs, and outstanding debts – all of which could have been covered. When someone’s income in minimized, such payments, become luxuries. In gaining employment and feeling valued, even part-time, retirees feel better, their health improves, they gain a sense of purpose, and can regain their independence.
So far this article has covered the situation from the point of view of retirees themselves. However, what does a business have to gain from hiring seniors? The main word is experience though you should not discount any other skills. Just because many worked for decades without modern technology, does not know they lack these essential modern skills or cannot contribute with manual, skill and finesse even if heavy lifting is a thing of the past. Still, let’s break this down into the key benefits for startups and growing companies:
- Knowledge of the industry, products, services, history, places, and people.
- Networking – many have long established connections across industries and large stores of kudos former colleagues and executives
- Experience of past successes and failures, which can help stop a company repeating these or find solutions to current problems.
- Mentoring of younger employees, good people skills, and better readers of people when hiring.
- Better communication skills than most younger employees.
- Stabilising presence
- Cheaper to hire due to no pension payment requirements and healthcare costs being covered by Medicare.
In short, hiring a retiree as an employee or consultant, can provide a wide range of benefits to a young, expanding company. They are able to balance the youth and vigor of younger employees, adding knowledge and skills which many underestimate as they struggle to build a business from scratch. Most of all, retirees love to mentor people and pass on the advice to a new generation which was once passed onto them when they were the young upstarts.
Maria Fonseca is the Editor and Infographic Artist for IntelligentHQ. She is also a thought leader writing about social innovation, sharing economy, social business, and the commons. Aside her work for IntelligentHQ, Maria Fonseca is a visual artist and filmmaker that has exhibited widely in international events such as Manifesta 5, Sao Paulo Biennial, Photo Espana, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Joshibi University and many others. She concluded her PhD on essayistic filmmaking , taken at University of Westminster in London and is preparing her post doc that will explore the links between creativity and the sharing economy.