Consider the nontraditional worker when talent is tapped | Mike Cook

By Mike Cook
Contributing writer 

I have heard that a lot of companies are having trouble finding the talent they need these days. I would love to help them solve their problem, but they seem to have a problem with me: I am 66 years old and am not looking for full-time employment.

These days,  I am usually up between 7 and 8 most mornings, unless it is the weekend, and then I’ll sleep in until 9. I get up, head downstairs, feed the first cat, heat the water for coffee, uncover the parrot and scratch his head.

Once the water gets hot, I make a cup of coffee for myself and a cup of decaf for my wife, go out to the garage to bring in the other cat (he has night terrors) and get his breakfast, then take the decaf upstairs to my wife where she has usually started her workday on her laptop while still in bed.

Back downstairs I check the morning news—usually three or four websites each day and maybe a favorite blog or two. Being on the West Coast gives me the advantage of knowing that both business and politics are well underway by the time I get going, so there is almost always something to entertain me at the start of the day.

By about 9 a.m. I’ve had a second cup of coffee and have begun the process of sorting through the email that has arrived by now. Usually there are about 25 new entries, most from various professional sites that I subscribe to: Inc., Fast Company, Forbes, Chief Learning Officer and others. I scan the subject lines quickly deleting the majority and saving the ones I’ll spend time with for later in the day. I handle the various notes from clients asking for meetings, and sometimes I get inquiries to see if I am able to accept any new clients.

I understand there are more and more people spending their days like I do.

The statistics I found on the Internet stated that beginning in 2010 we were entering a 10-year period where 70 million U.S. workers were going to retire and only 40 million new workers are going to enter the workforce. I know we’ve been experiencing somewhat higher than usual unemployment, but I expect that this shift in demographics will impact the unemployment statistic in a positive way.

Of course, that assumes those of us who’ve been leaving the workforce are being replaced by people with equal talent and skills—that the newer folks won’t have as much experience of course but eventually they’ll catch on.

I still like a good professional challenge, but honestly I am not interested in full-time work or showing up any place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., five to six days a week. I don’t have to earn what I once did, but I would like to be paid a respectful amount, something that reflects the value I can bring to a workplace.

Oftentimes I wonder whether an employer might be interested in having me as part of his or her team. I’ve asked around but find that, more often than not, employers are more interested in control of my time than they are in my productivity, even though I could probably produce in three days a week what some of their new people produce in an entire week.

I don’t need a job, I’d just like to do some interesting work. That’s a problem for most companies. I don’t fit.

I told an HR manager recently that I thought I be interested in working in some capacity for at least the next five years. She wanted to know how she would sell me to her CEO if I was only going to be around for five years.

I said, “Ask your CEO, him or her, how long they are going to be around!”

Look, I know the idea of hiring a bunch of people my age has its challenges, but you know what, so does hiring people at any age. Be honest with yourself, is your company strapped for talent these days? And I mean talent, not just filling your vacancies.

If the answer is yes, you might want to consider the nontraditional workforce all around you.

I know I am not alone. The pool of people like me is growing daily, and opportunity is there for the companies with vision. The advantages should be obvious. The folks in my age group, call them “geezers” if you will, are likely not looking for full-time employment, most don’t need benefits, we probably don’t need to be managed, we’ll do what we say we’ll do it when it needs to be done, we have organizational savvy and skills, and respect is probably more important to us than money, so we’ll be less expensive in the long run.

Oh yes, and we don’t have the ego needs of younger people either.

Your job is to figure out how to utilize our talents when we don’t give a hoot about your pay grades, vacation policies or work hours. If you can deal with that, we might be able to strike a deal, and I am betting you would be the winner in the end.

Mike Cook is a management developer who lives in Anacortes, Wash. His columns appear on BBJToday.com every other Tuesday. He also publishes a weekly blog at www.heartofengagement.com.

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