San Francisco — March 1
As the demand for highly qualified financial services and IT workers continues to strain the labor market, more attention is being put on alternative candidate pools.
Outsourcing, off-shoring, H1B Visa workers, out-of-state applicants, and less experienced workers with high aptitude are all being considered by employers and recruiting firms.
According to Granite Solutions Groupe, a San Francisco-based recruiting firm, a huge opportunity exists in an often overlooked labor category: the so-called “older worker.”
Not just the visible service worker at retail anymore, employers are increasingly looking to this category as a more viable option for filling key professional roles across industries — especially as the baby boomer population marches into retirement age.
Many of these workers are not retiring because of cost of living pressures, a strong desire to continue working, inadequate savings or the financial pressures of putting children through college.
Yet, older hires (those 45 to 60) are less frequently placed in fast-paced, senior-level corporate IT jobs — positions such as IT managers and directors, business analysts, Web and system designers and program team leaders.
The rapid pace of technology advances and America’s obsession with youth and beauty often conjures the idea of young, dynamic technical wizards driven to innovate.
“Like most sectors in society, the bias is toward the young,” said John Henning, Granite Solutions Groupe director of business development. “The idea of 1990s technical ‘wiz kids’ — energetic and driven — still dominates the cultural consciousness and perceptions.
“Stereotypes of the ‘older worker’ suggest less enthusiastic, less dynamic and innovative employees, and this perception couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Henning said the profile of the technologist with business acumen and strong, measured interpersonal skills tends to appear more frequently with age, important for corporate development teams and managers, entrepreneurial companies and C-level positions.
This baby boomer group, he noted, are statistically more educated, more networked and lead “younger lives” than previous generations.
Older workers also can have important motivations. Children in college are a huge incentive as the cost of higher education continues to outpace inflation.
Along with that motivation comes seriously focused workers with fewer distractions — these workers don’t call in sick when their adult children are sick and are often more focused on the work than employees with young families.
After a primary career, many workers in this group continue to work full-time or take contract and consulting roles to strengthen their own financial positions and help pay off educational loans.
They’re looking at adding a few more years to their pensions, paying off mortgages and helping children purchase their own homes.
Henning said Granite Solutions Groupe’s network of older workers is steadily growing, but that doesn’t mean there’s not pushback from clients.
“Frankly, there are some who privately admit they just want a younger candidate,” Henning said. “It’s stated as a preference, but often companies are not examining their biases and the changing employment outlook. Positions go unfilled, and there’s still reticence to seriously pursue older candidates.
“This isn’t true with all employers of course, and many of our clients that don’t have this cultural bias against older workers are reaping the benefits of this under-utilized workforce. I encourage all of my clients to really examine their own consciences both personally and organizationally to ensure that they aren’t missing the boat when it comes to tapping this wealth of knowledge, technical ability and productive capacity.”