This morning, I read For Economy, Aging Population Poses Double Whammy (registration required). If you don't read the WSJ, here are some interesting takeaways:
On average, every 10% increase in the share of state’s population over the age of 60 reduced per capita growth in gross domestic product by 5.5%.
The authors note: “An older worker’s experience increases not only his own productivity but also the productivity of those who work with him.” All else equal, experienced workers are more productive. One study found that productivity peaks at age 50, when productivity is 60% higher than for the average 20 year old.
Notice this: Productivity peaks at age 50. 50!! (I actually know I am more productive now than I was 10 years ago. I bet there are people just like me, out there.)
In high tech, we love the shiny new object (people with a couple of years of experience). They are less expensive. They appear to know the latest, greatest thing (tools and technology). And, unless they are extremely mature, they do not have the perspective and emotional maturity that older people do.
If you want to increase productivity (throughput in software), hire older people who have been successful in previous roles. Here's why:
- They know how to work, to finish their work.
- They have seen your problem or something like your problem before. They have experience that can help.
- They often know how to build connections between disparate people. (They build small-world networks.)
- They understand how to persevere through the difficult times. (All projects have difficult times where people feel as if they are slogging through the project.)
- They understand how to work with other people.
- They are adaptable. (Have you thought about how software has changed since the 70s and 80s? Wowie zowie.)
Not everyone has all these qualities in the same amount. And, if you dare look for people over 50 (and over 60), you will find enough of these qualities that you will find a great employee.
Look for and hire someone older. If you need to, negotiate on salary. Remember, money is just one component of compensation. But, don't think that the eager-beaver 20-something is the only person who will help you increase your throughput.