Leading Edge: Over the hill or ready for an encore?

by Ross Reimer
Ross Reimer, Leading Edge
Ross Reimer has
over 30 years of experience in transportation/supply chain. For the last 20 years he has been President of Reimer Associates, a recruitment firm within supply chain.

Webster’s Dictionary defines “over the hill” as “past one’s prime” and “advanced in age.” The expression itself is rarely used these days.

As a recruiter, I receive résumés from a broad demographic of supply chain and transportation people, ranging in age from early 20s to late 60s. Occasionally I’m asked by clients to avoid submitting the résumés of people who are mid-50s and beyond, the thinking being that a person in their mid-50s has only a few more years left in their career.

I understand the desire to bring management people into the industry who have many years of employment remaining in their careers, but based upon the large number of interviews I’m involved with, I firmly believe that people in their late 50s and 60s can still make significant contributions.

Let’s discuss the benefits of hiring such people. A manager with three or four decades of experience under his or her belt can bring tremendous value to an organization. People like this have literally grown up through and adapted to enormous change within the industry.

They have learned to work productively in a variety of environments and have developed their skill sets in organizations that have weathered many an economic storm. They have managed through numerous innovations as well as several of the trendiest theories on how to best manage people. Along the way they have been able to sort out what works best. In my mind this adds up to tremendous potential value.

It’s no secret that in many cases, 60 really is the new 50. Numerous studies report that people in their 50s and 60s are healthier, fitter and more active than ever before. It really does give credence to the adage that age is just a number. Economic realities as well as a healthier generation are driving these changes. I can cite innumerable examples of people moving into the last quarter of their career who are incredibly adaptable lifelong learners who bring all kinds of positivity to work every day.

One of the overlooked benefits of hiring someone in the last quarter of their career is the economic advantage to the employer. In many cases the people seeking employment have been restructured and have received generous compensation packages. Many are willing to work on a consulting basis, which can be advantageous to both them and their employer in both the short term and long term. As a recruiter I’ve had the opportunity to introduce numerous clients to newly minted consultants who work on projects for reasonable fees that create a great win-win solution.

Another big advantage is having the older generation formally mentoring younger people in the company who are moving into management levels with increasing responsibility. Without question, there is a significant gap in supply chain and transportation today as it relates to the next generation of management. Margins are tight, so fewer and fewer companies have any formal management training programs.

Hiring experienced managers can stimulate educating the management team that will lead the company into the future. Many successful companies who employ a blend of the older generation along with younger people are finding that a fantastic synergy can result. Each group can challenge the other, teaching the other, and finding great success.

I’m currently working on a consulting assignment with an individual who is 76 years old. He’s running an outstanding business that he founded when he was 65. The business is growing, with leading-edge ideas and impacting his clients in an incredibly positive way. While he’s certainly an exception, more importantly he’s also an inspiration. He’s bringing his energy and experience together in such a positive way.

It’s no secret that restructuring has become a fact of working life that a great majority will experience. It often results in people who are 55-plus having great difficulty with re-employment.

I think there is a better way – a win-win solution. The next time you’re looking to hire outstanding management talent make sure you consider that growing group of people who are focused on their encore career. They bring experience, vitality and a willingness to work diligently, which can produce outstanding results.