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If you challenge an existing preference for hiring younger workers over e.g. “best agers” (50+), you get a series of arguments which initially sound somehow reasonable.
- Younger candidates have more energy and higher productivity.
- Younger candidates bring along more recent expert knowledge due to their contemporary professional training/university education … and thereby deliver higher quality.
- Younger candidates are cheaper.
- Younger candidates are less resistent to change.
- In an aging society it is more future-oriented to hire younger candidates and develop them internally on the long-term.
As non-involved I can dare to say: all those are dumb stereotypes … if not lies!
The “younger is more productive” myth
It has been repeatedly investigated and proven hat “best agers” on average do show at least a similar productivity and level of achievements while typically being more efficient and delivering higher quality. No more to say.
The “younger is cheaper” myth
Is it? I would like to challenge this assertion by stating that the average “best ager” achieves more with less energy and in less time. He compensates youthful freshness with experience and beneficial learnings from the past. So, I dare to say that a complete and honest calculation will give at least the same if not lower costs for the “best ager”.
And by the way, cheap or valuable, you always get what you pay for!
The “younger provides better knowledge” myth
Yes, sure, the expert knowledge a mid-20s university leaver brings along is more recent. But …
- By whom did they get it? From “best agers” being their trainer/teacher, am I right or am I wrong?
- Blank knowledge from professional training or university is by far not enough for real life success and best practice. “Best agers” typically provide expert knowledge plus experiences from years of daily working including highly valuable experiences and learnings the youngster simply miss. The overall level of current and real-life knowledge is much higher with the “best ager”.
And by the way, it is impertinent to generally insinuate that older colleagues do not continuously develop their expert knowledge to the state-of-the-art level.
The “seniors are more resistant to change” myth
To my observation, more senior colleagues are not above average resistant to change but in many cases even drive it. And I was involved in quite a few change projects/processes. No, senior colleagues do more dare speaking up for stupid changes and dumb implementations … where many youngsters just follow like sheep. For me this level of commitment by senior colleagues never has been a bug but a feature. And in most cases it was highly beneficial for the whole change project.
The “younger provides more long-term benefit” myth
Especially the more promising youngsters have a much higher tendency to switch their job if not the company due to career aspirations. Exception proves the rule and there are certainly companies which do a proper good job in developing and keeping their staff. But I dare to say that many companies will benefit longer from a hired “best ager” staying 10-15 years than of a “±30 ager” leaving for the next career step after 3-4 years.
The true reason
I think there is another important point which is typically less mentioned but more influencing the preference for younger candidates within a hiring process.
Younger workers are much easier to influence and to manipulate. They challenge instructions and decisions by their line manager (who is also their hiring manager) much less. And just to avoid any misunderstanding: to my opinion this is bad, at least with advanced, innovative, forward-thinking companies. But unfortunately there is a fatal correlation between leader quality and the tendency to hire team members which are better qualified than oneself.
“Best agers” are not more difficult to lead. But they are more resistant to bad leadership. So they are less likely hired by bad leaders who cannot stand to be constructively challenged.
Check it! Just watch the leaders in your own working environment. Which of them would you rate as better leaders and which as worse? And what is the average team age of the better … and what the average team age of the poor leaders? *
You see, what I mean!
* OK, and please kindly ignore any constitutional bias, e.g. by type of job or team where the average age is unavoidably lower.