At any age
Changing mindsets to open the doors to more mature employees.
BY: Helen Lim
Imagine the day when all enlightened HR managers and hiring managers are objectively focused on skills and wisdom of all potential candidates … at any age. And, when mature employees upon reaching the retirement age of 62 years “young”, are positively encouraged to stay on if they have proven good track record as well as good health. Singapore would come up tops and many other countries would be interested to find out the underlying secrets and success factors for this world-class model and replicate in their own countries!
There is much work to be done to reach that ideal! There are current pockets of success, where a few role model employers have stated their commitment to have a truly age-friendly culture. However, more must come forward and share what goes on right and what are the key success ingredients. How does one shed off this age prejudice? How old you are should not be the discriminating factor, but rather one’s experience and capability.
Today, as I conduct career coaching sessions for outplaced candidates, I hear more cases of disappointment than success amongst those in their early 50s seeking re-employment. For example, I have the case of a well-groomed secretary who had a great track record working for dynamic managing directors. However, when the last MNC she was at underwent a restructuring exercise, she was one of the retrenched at the age of 52 years young. In the last one year, she has been unsuccessful in getting a decent temporary assignment, despite her sending out many resumes and going for numerous interviews. There is unspeakable ageism that exists in today’s working environment – in five out of six approaches for jobs, she was told directly, “ Your age is not suitable.”
I believe some people are not aware of their prejudices. They need to confront this. This is the most challenging process – changing mindset and getting to action. Why can’t people see that hiring older workers can bring about many benefits including years of experience. Don’t lay them out to pasture, but instead see them as an asset! Organisations should also establish systems to sustain mindset change. One effective way would be to consider embedding diversity factors like age into the performance management system and highlighting key leadership competencies and ensure such competencies are evaluated as part of the 360-degree process.
We need to continue showcasing success stories of mature workers, educating hiring managers on hiring of mature workers, and preparing mature candidates to be effective and positive in the workforce.
We should set our vision towards truly becoming an age-friendly culture at all organisations, big and small. At any age, employees should stay employable and engaged to pave their way towards getting re-employed. And with the 2012 re-employment legislation just around the corner, the importance of reaching this goal can’t be more dire!
Helen Lim, 62, is founder of Silver Spring, a company that focuses on career counseling, placements and life coaching. It is about putting “the bounce back in your life”. A certified executive coach with years of HR experience, Lim was a pioneer of SingHealth’s Silver Connection Movement, which helped retrain retirees and mature employees.