BY FORREST FLINN
Years ago, when I was a younger man, my manager said to me that managing a powersports dealership is a young man’s game. At the time I didn’t think much about it because I was only 33 years old but today I see the error and mindlessness of his statement. In this month’s blog I will try to convince you to rethink your position on hiring older workers and try to show you that by doing so how it can pay off big dividends for you and your dealership.
First of all, I think that all dealerships should see that hiring employees over the age of 50 should be viewed as a strategic move and become a big part of your dealership’s competitive advantage. Common thinking in the powersports industry is to hire younger members of the workforce. In the powersports industry we tend to discriminate, either consciously or unconsciously, on a routine basis in favor of hiring younger workers. Some dealerships do it to foster their already established dealership culture.Some dealers have told me that they need applicants with a “longer runway” and how much runway does a 50-year old have? In fact, as you will see shortly, applicants over 50 have more runway than you think. According to AARP, if you ignore applicants over the age of 50, then you are in fact ignoring 20 percent of the labor pool.
- Knowledge and Experience. Older workers bring vast amounts of knowledge and experience and can start solving your dealership’s problems and making a positive contribution on day 1. (US News & World Report) Employees over 50 bring not only bring work experience to the table but life experience as well. Life experience is only gained through living, something that the millennials and younger generations just haven’t done yet. Older workers bring stability and maturity to the job, a skill hard to find in younger workers. And best of all, workers over 50 often times come to you already trained because of their previous experience in dealership environments.
- Longevity and Loyalty. Older workers tend to stay on the job longer and have more loyalty than their younger counterparts. (AARP) Today it is very hard to recruit in the powersports industry and key positions are being left unfilled that directly impact the dealership’s bottom line. Even if you get five years out of your new hire over 50, isn’t that a lot longer than some of the employees of the past that were younger? Employment longevity and loyalty are again, attributes that previous generations are lacking in. Employees over 50 also tend not to be job hoppers which can reduce dealership turnover frustration, anxiety, and cost.
- Reliably. Older workers tend to be more reliable on and off the job. Overall older generations tend to show up to work on time, spend less time on their mobile devices, and are generally more reliable that their younger counter parts. Demands on older workers by their families is less often due to the fact that their children are grown. Also tied to this concept is that older workers sometimes work for the joy of working and not for the financial reasons which changes their outlook and are eager to go to work every day.
- Leadership and Communication Skills. Leadership skills and having good communication skills are important in any dealership environment. Older workers bring may years of this type of experience to the workplace and can lead and manage faster and quicker than their younger counter parts. With their experience older workers can make good decisions better and faster because of their age. Being able to communicate well with other dealership staff as well as your customers are vital skills to your dealership’s financial health.
- Adaptability. Older workers are incredibly adaptive. There is a myth out there that older workers cannot adapt to change or technology easily. This is wildly untrue. Older workers can adapt often faster than younger generations in times of change due to their past experiences and maturity. Older generations may not have been born directly into technology and advanced processes but they did grow up alongside of them! Surprisingly older workers are completely fine with technology and where there is a knowledge gap older workers are generally eager to learn new processes and technology. (Moneycrashers.com).
- Mentoring. Older workers can provide a lifetime of experience to younger less experienced workers. During the recession many employees left the powersports industry for one reason or another. Maybe it is time to bring back some of those now older technicians and let them help you mentor future generations of techs in your dealership. This construct doesn’t just apply to the service department but to the entire dealership. Bringing in older workers can give your dealership’s culture a new kick in the pants and spur learning and innovation that serves you, your customers, and your dealership’s bottom line as well
Today in a tight labor market it is often impossible to find quality employees to work in the retail side of the powersports industry. Collectively we need to rethink what it means to manage a truly multigenerational workforce and think strategically and competitively towards the future. Actively recruiting for employees over the age of 50 should be part of your overall recruitment strategy because after reading his article it should just make sense to do so. If we are consistently overlooking potential employees that are over age 50 we are not only doing a huge disservice to them, but we are perpetuating the concepts of age discrimination and ageism. Also by ignoring older workers as potential dealership assets we are cheating ourselves out of having some really talented employees that can help you move your dealership forward into the future.
And after all, it is good business.
Forrest Flinn, MBA, PHR, SMS has been in the motorcycle industry for more than 20 years and has been a true student and leader serving in various capacities. He previously worked as an implementation consultant for Lightspeed and as a general manager with P&L responsibility for a large metro multi-line dealership. Currently Forrest is the managing partner and chief visionary for a consulting firm that specializes in outsourced accounting, human resources, social media strategy, dealership operations consulting and Lightspeed/EVO training.