Are older workers the most talented employees?

Are older workers the most talented employees?

We all had one in our class at school, didn’t we? The person who was born with a natural talent for sport; any game they played, they made it look easy. And usually, they were the most popular person as well, much to the chagrin of the also-rans. The accolade of ‘talented’ was gently draped across their shoulders as they wended what was a sure and certain path to future fame and fortune. It was easy for us to pick them out then.

Fast forward to the workplace years and the constant use of the new mantra of ‘talent management’, chanted by HR consultants as the must-have process in your hiring portfolio, hides a very patchy approach to what actually constitutes ‘talent’. According to a recent CIPD report, Attitudes to Employability and Talent, only 8% of SMEs actually have a definition of ‘talent’ and only a third of larger organisations have bothered to define what they mean by the term. Even then, the criteria used are subjective both to the assessor and their organisation.

Top four attributes were a positive attitude to work, good work ethic, bringing innovation and reliability. It would, therefore, appear pretty difficult to measure these attributes except subjectively, so the report explores attempts to classify demographic groups, using criteria similar to the attributes mentioned, into a scale of ‘talentedness’. Surprisingly for some, the Over 55s scored highest for their employability, comfortably beating ‘young people’ into fifth place. Individuals with disabilities came a close second, followed by migrant workers and parents. Worryingly, the long-term unemployed, ex-servicemen & women and ex-offenders fared very unfavourably.

It would appear then that managing an organisation’s talent, as opposed to that of individual workers, would be made easier by ensuring a good mix of all these categories in the workforce. People are rarely as productive working in their peer groups as they are when diversity is represented in the work team. Few large employers have yet to achieve this ideal mix, although some are heading in the right direction. Given that pension reform will inevitably keep workers longer in the job market, it makes perfect sense.