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Sunday, 15 March 2015

Finding Difficulty in Recruiting Great People? Don’t Waste the More Mature Talent You Already Have!

I am slightly reluctant to return to the subject of ageism as it may be thought that I have a hidden agenda (which I have).

At this stage I have no intention of retiring, certainly while I still have my marbles, or at least some of them.

I had a wonderful colleague in the USA, Pat Hyndman, who died last year at the great age of 95, and was still chairing two Vistage CEO groups.

Pat's approach to retirement was that he intended to go on until "they had to carry me out on the flip chart" and if only metaphorically that is what he achieved.

However in conversation with several of my Vistage CEO members of late I have been looking at the subject on a less personal and emotive basis.

My friends in the recruitment industry tell me that in this period of GDP growth certain sectors have become candidate-led simply because of increased demand for talent and a shortage of the right people.

Indeed in one case the member told me that they had offered positions to three potential candidates all of whom had gone elsewhere.

The salaries being offered were above the current market range and the member's company has an enviable reputation as an exceptional employer.  Because of the shortage, people are becoming more choosy.

The whole market is going through a cyclical change right now and I suspect that it will get even harder rather than easier to find and recruit great people.

What, then, can be done about this problem?

There is a whole range of variables that impact on the situation that I would suggest is one of the most serious facing business leaders at this moment.

For example, the change in legislation stopping companies imposing mandatory retirement to employees is leading to the occasional blockage in available career paths.

Medical advances are also leading to longer life (about which I am not complaining) that implies that the bank of knowledge and skills is growing and still in employment.

In addition there was a five-year gap in training skills leading to the current shortage of good candidates.

This means that there is a further issue stemming from the dramatic changes in business technology.

The younger people take these changes for granted and embrace them automatically while those at the more elderly end of the workforce find absorption of these changes more difficult.

There is no doubt that many people who are passing or have already passed the notional retirement age can expect two or three decades more and I have always said that much of that skill bank is neither realised or exploited.

There is a natural reluctance on the part of employers to bring older people into the workforce but here and there it may be at least a part solution to the problem.

While I am a great believer in the more mature citizens keeping working and contributing (should they so desire) I would accept that there will be many whose skills can easily be supplied by someone younger.

Manual workers for example will find that the natural ageing process inhibits continued work with the consequent reduction in strength and mobility.

However with the growth in the apprenticeship scheme why not employ these older people to pass on their skills to the young generation?  I suggest that this should be on a formal basis and not just ad hoc.

For the more mature who have come through a professional career path, there is no reason why they should not keep available to help out on a part-time or interim basis.

Alternatively a portfolio of activities can bring intellectual rigour with a measure of freedom of the diary.

There is an opportunity for some farsighted entrepreneur to set up an agency to market these skills and prevent their being lost by just draining away.

Finally remember that as we age, it's the knees that go first closely followed by parallel parking.

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