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Today’s Employers Find Rich Resource Among ‘Unretirees’ : Careers: But many older job seekers face a tough time convincing some firms that choosing them can be wise.

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From Reuters

After putting in years at the job and leaving with a full pension, many retirees don’t want to sit back and watch the grass grow. They want to go back to work, maybe part time, maybe full time.

But many face a tough time persuading employers that older can indeed be better.

The reason: employers often believe the myths that older Americans can’t do the work and will be a drain on the company.

Two authorities believe nothing could be further from the truth. They say many employers don’t understand that skilled, experienced seniors can boost productivity and improve customer service.

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Also, older workers often possess technical and scientific knowledge that today’s younger workers haven’t bothered to acquire.

According to “Unretirement,” co-authors Catherine Fyock and Anne Dorton claim seniors attempting to re-enter the work force are often thwarted by employers’ fears they “will be a detriment to the organization.”

Canny employers, though, such as Wal-Mart Stores, Walt Disney World, Control Data Corp., The Travelers Corp., Honeywell Corp., Days Inn, Hardee’s and McDonald’s have been quick to cash in on senior skills.

By the estimate of the Commonwealth Fund, in 1990, the last year the numbers were available, 1.9 million Americans age 55 to 64 were ready and able to go back to work. If demographics are any clue, there should be even more today.

Fyock and Dorton, president and vice president of Innovative Management Concepts in Prospect, Ky., provide workplace counseling to such clients as AT&T;, Hardee’s and Federal Express.

Quoting Ernest Hemingway, “Retirement is the ugliest word in the language,” the authors say retirees have solid reasons to re-enter the work force: pay off the mortgage, educate their kids, keep fit, supplement pensions or keep busy. Among the “myths” they attack:

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* Retirees belong on a porch in a rocking chair. In fact, thousands prefer to stand on their feet all day in some hectic fast-food outlet.

* They’re “slow.” In fact, they’re actually more productive than younger workers, having fewer errors and accidents.

* They won’t stay long. In fact, they’re less transient so they actually keep jobs longer. Firms such as Western Savings & Loan of Arizona and First Savings of San Diego, the authors note, recruit seniors “precisely for their high retention rate.”

* They’re often out sick. In fact, data compiled by Banker’s Life & Polaroid Corp. show seniors get higher on-time and attendance marks.

* They’re expensive to train. In fact, since they hold their jobs longer, employers get a bigger pay-back when they do train them.

* Seniors are difficult to work with. In fact, “unretirees” have “a lifetime of experience” with interpersonal skills. They place “a high value on courtesy, tact and diplomacy . . . (and) tend to work easily with co-workers and customers,” the authors write.

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Moreover, they provide “a tremendous stabilizing force within a younger work force.”

“Mentoring relationships are not uncommon, with younger employees seeking the counsel and wisdom of older co-workers in a non-threatening relationship,” Fyock and Dorton write.

Other myths:

* They are viewed “negatively” by customers. In fact, older workers have earned a reputation for “stellar customer service and courtesy” and identify particularly well with that growing block of customers their own age.

* They lack workplace experience. In fact, many were veteran managers axed by downsizing. Others have “life experience” that could prove invaluable to employers.

As John Russell, president of the Days Inn motel chain, said, “For all our talking about it, older people are still the best-kept secret when it comes to hiring loyal, steady and capable employees.”

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