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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dealing With Strange

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By Jerrold (Jerry) Clifford
Professional ETP Member since 2007 and Lamplighter contributing writer.


We live in a strange world. Airplanes have seats that are flotation devices even though the planes don’t travel on water, cars have devices intended to keep passengers immobile (seat belts) even though the vehicles themselves are designed for movement, footballs are carried or thrown more often than they are kicked and many companies won’t hire experienced workers. And companies still mistakenly believe that younger, inexperienced workers can have the same productivity as people who have already made the mistakes resulting from inexperience and know how to avoid them.

As strange as it seems, the first three items actually make sense. Many planes travel over water so having flotation devices in the event of an emergency could be effective in saving lives. Seat belts prevent passengers from injuries caused by unwanted movement. Since every football game is started by actually kicking the ball there is logic in the name. But not hiring experienced workers and expecting the same value is faulty logic.

A well known expression taught in history classes is that those who don’t learn from their mistakes are condemned to repeat them. Apparently this is not reviewed in basic business and cost accounting classes. They teach that experienced workers have been around for a while and hence tend to be older. The perception is that because they have been around longer they tend to make more money and have higher benefit costs than younger employees, that with age illness is more frequent resulting in higher insurance costs and higher absence rates. This “analysis” concludes that eliminating older workers and hiring younger replacements reduces these factors and hence hiring younger people is more cost effective.

This“logic” neglects to include all the facts. Older people have a stronger work ethic which promotes placing emphasis on a job’s requirements over self-fulfillment and so absence rates are often lower among experienced workers. Because of knowledge and experience, older workers tend to have fewer job related accidents. Most importantly, people learn from mistakes. Mistakes cost companies money. Younger people haven’t made enough mistakes to know how to avoid them. Yet, cost accountants consider medical costs, salaries, and benefit costs in their analysis but fail to consider the cost of mistakes and errors in judgment.

There is no doubt that this has led to loss of older worker jobs and difficulties for these individuals in finding replacement employment. But the job seeker who dwells on experience (age) discrimination is doing him/her self a huge disservice. Hiring (and HR) managers don’t want to hear that they are guilty of anything. They perceive themselves as simply wanting to hire the best worker at the lowest cost. Criticism has a negative connotation and they do not want to hire negative prospects. The older applicant should understand that the job application and interview process is not the best forum for effecting attitude change. The candidate is best served to find a company that respects knowledge and experience rather than complain about discrimination within organizations that don’t.

Job applicants should present themselves in a way that emphasizes to the prospective organization that their knowledge and experience can help the employer solve a problem that they are trying to address and this then separates the candidate from others seeking the same position.

Experience is valuable. That the age experienced candidate has to validate this is more proof that we live in a strange world.


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