Reaching out to mature workers

Social media among ways to entice candidates
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 02/11/2013

Danielle Restivo says her father-in-law is quite possibly LinkedIn’s biggest fan. With one foot in retirement and one foot in the working world, he finds the social networking site a very useful tool.

“He’s really been using it, not only to make sure that he maintains a really strong network of professionals from his past jobs but he’s also wanting to do that because, even if he retires, he’ll never actually stop working. So if he wants to do freelance work, he then has a really great network of contacts,” says Restivo, Toronto-based head of global programs at LinkedIn.

That’s not to say all people in his situation should create a detailed online profile — it depends on the individual.

“It makes him feel like he’s still plugged in, whereas there may be some who want to take more of an observatory position and look at it and see what other people are up to but not have much on their profile,” she says.

Overall, there is a fair amount of activity on LinkedIn among the older demographic, says Restivo. “There’s definitely an appetite for it.”

Newer resources such as Facebook or LinkedIn might be well-used by millennials but they also hold appeal for mature workers who are either looking to get back into the workforce or transition out of it, according to Debbie Amery, vice-president of talent and tax and national human capital leader at PwC in Toronto.

“They’re savvy enough to understand that if they really want to hear about some of the opportunities, they may not fill out profiles to the same extent but they’ll have something small on there, even if that’s just a way to connect them.”

Taking a focused approach

For employers, reaching out to recruit experienced candidates should involve a targeted approach, both when it comes to recruitment and retention according to experts.

PwC also relies heavily on alumni connections to find older candidates, along with word-of-mouth and associations for professionals or university graduates. On the other hand, online job boards are not as successful, says Amery.

“We find we have to be a bit more targeted when we’re looking at that.”

Sodexo, a provider of integrated food and facilities management services, uses a focused tactic with an in-house talent acquisition team on the lookout for diverse candidates such as mature workers, according to Vanessa White, senior vice-president of human resources. On a monthly basis, they circulate a diversity “hot list” of candidates they think would be a great fit, to make it easier for hiring managers.

“(It’s) fitting with our overall strategy of being a diverse workforce. Older workers certainly play an important part of that,” says White. “From a culture perspective, having a balanced workforce gives us our best product, so whether that’s gender diversity, ethnic diversity, age diversity — whatever it is.”

In looking to recruit this group, Sodexo keeps in mind their past experience when determining benefits, she says.

“We’re quite careful when we’re hiring mature workers that we will recognize service earned outside the company so when they’re starting, they’re not starting over from a lower vacation.”

Sodexo also works hard to keep older employees happy through HR initiatives, such as work-life balance days where employees can take time off at 25 per cent of their pay over and above vacation, along with flexible or part-time hours, health and dental benefits extended to age 70 and “impact mentoring,” says White.

“Quite often the feedback we get from older workers is they’re now Facebooking, they’re learning new things and new perspectives and it’s actually helping them lead their teams much better because they’ve had that opportunity to spend a very targeted amount of time reverse-learning from younger employees about what’s important to them.”

And yet 71.5 per cent of small and medium-sized employers across Canada say it’s not likely job openings will be filled by people older than 65, now or in the future, according to a 2012 survey of 743 employers by the Investors Group.

But employers have to get past the notion younger is better, says Susan Eng, vice-president for advocacy at CARP in Toronto, a non-profit organization dedicated to people over the age of 50.

“What you get with an older worker… is that they have years of experience, informal networks and a type of wisdom that gives you a competitive advantage,” she says. “So you need to project the idea that ‘We’re not doing you a favour, older worker. We really need and value the difference that you bring to our workplace.’”

It’s a good idea to consider what kind of work might appeal more to mature workers, such as positions requiring mentoring, coaching or training opportunities, but not a lot of travel, says Eng.

“They have a really important role in that respect that relieves some of your management obligations.”

Flexibility in the workplace is also appreciated, she says, as many older workers have caregiver concerns, whether it’s with a parent, spouse or child.

“These are the people who need some kind of, first of all, respect and understanding — just that, never mind extra money,” says Eng.

Mature workers can work well with PwC’s needs as a business since tax season can be particularly busy and often the older demographic is looking for reduced work, such as four to five months, says Amery.

“That really allows us to take those peaks and valleys, if they want that flexibility,” she says. “Even if we can have them for a couple of years, many times their relationship-building, their ability to move a team forward is really valued — even if that may be a short period of time.”

The experience of older workers means they can add value quickly, says Amery.

“They can hit the ground running and really pick up and move on very quickly in the process, so we see that as a definite asset,” she says. “They can help people understand the challenges and roadblocks and opportunities and allow that entire team to grow faster as a result of that... It allows for diversity of thinking.”

As for concerns around an older worker’s health or benefits usage, those should not be top of mind, she says.

“I would be lying if I said we didn’t think about it but, in all honesty, you can have that with anybody, so you really have to look at what’s the best fit for your company and the value everyone brings,” says Amery. “You really want the best person for the job.”

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