The Value Of Knowledge And Experience Parvez Rahim


The retirement age for men in our organized private sector industrial and commercial establishments ranges from 55 to 60 years. In fact there are few amongst the multi-national companies operating in our country who retire their employees at 60 and most of them don’t go beyond 58. The same companies operating in European countries have a higher retirement age of 65 and depending upon the physical and mental condition of the employee, allow him to work even beyond this age. In our government departments and the public sector companies, the retirement age is 60 and higher in the case of judges, but unlike the private sector companies, in the public sector companies, acceleration in the amount of terminal benefits during the years before retirement is not that significant.

Having a lower retirement age in Pakistan have both advantages and disadvantages. Advantage, as the fresh graduates in various disciplines get job opportunities against positions vacated by the retiring employees. Disadvantage because in some cases the retiring employees are still energetic and capable to continue delivering their job objectives effectively but still have many personal responsibilities, to discharge.

The American companies have been known for encouraging and expecting their younger employees to quickly achieve the top slots in the hierarchy of organizations. It has been the norm to identify the high potential employees early in their careers and then channelise the company resources towards their rapid development through training and work exposure in various disciplines especially in the Human Resource function. Average potential employees, manage to survive in the organization through dedication, hard work or being “Specialist” in certain field. The low potential employees appear misfits in the organization and in most cases are forced to quit. The system of “hire and fire”, has been rampant and favourite of American employers. In this ruthless culture, the value of older employees who might have been the management’s backbone was not recognized, who also unnecessarily thought themselves to be burden on the company.

This approach in American companies is gradually changing after the September 11 incident. According to the Workforce magazine of December 2003, Quote “the FBI confronted an unusual problem in trying to launch a worldwide terrorism investigation: inexperience. More than 40 percent of the 11,400 FBI agents around the world had five or less years on the job. While it began a massive campaign to hire new agents, the FBI turned to another source for the immediate investigation. The agency hired dozens of its retired agents on a contract basis as intelligence analysts and evidence examiners. A congressional committee looking into intelligence failures linked to September 11 cited a lack of analytical skills as perhaps the FBI’s greatest weakness. Ironically, experts say, the FBI contributed to this problem with its mandatory retirement age of 57, which forced many of its most experienced analysts out of work. They inadvertently created a brain drain” Unquote. This “brain drain” mirrors the situation that companies and organizations not only in the United States but throughout the world may soon face. Why companies are interested in their older employees to continue in jobs, following are the reasons;

  • Many older people have a work ethic and sense of politeness that the younger generation has not learned yet.
  • Having a mix of older and younger people in the organization will have reciprocal positive influence on each other. The older employees provide a great example of work ethic and customer service for the young people. The younger employees help revitalize the older employees and give them enthusiasm for work.
  • Older employees may take longer to grasp certain things, such as technology, they may need less training in other areas, such as customer services.
  • The older employees are more suitable to fill positions that require high amounts of organization and discipline. They are punctual and regular in attending their duty. There is a story of an 80 year old pharmacy technician, who has been with a company in the United States for 60 years and still works in a drug store. During a savage snowstorm in 2002, the old woman was the only one who made it to work. She called her manager and asked, “Where is everybody?”
  • Older employees may be particularly useful in the public affairs or industrial relations jobs. An employee in the public affairs continues to develop in his profession with every passing year in job. He reaches the zenith late in his career and starts delivering much more than what is expected of him by the organization. In the industrial relations, events and issues have a tendency to repeat after few years. These recurring situations may relate to management or the employees unions. People who have knowledge as to what happened and how the problem was tackled on the last occasion, may be of great help in finding a solution to similar issue arisen again. There is no short cut to experience. In the realm of industrial relations, knowledge of history and preferably experience of the past events is important as long prevailing customs and usages are not less binding than law.
  • Companies must avail of the wealth of knowledge and experience possessed by those older employees who are capable, energetic and have a strong will to continue working. But an important aspect of attracting and retaining older employees is offering them new roles and responsibilities, so they have a continuing sense of self-discovery. They can also serve as mentors to younger colleagues especially those who have been identified as high-potential employees but have less experience. The employers will never repent their decision to retain or reemploy such older employees