NEW YORK (MainStreet) – A study by University of Mannheim researchers in Germany found that older employees are much more productive than their younger counterparts, at least on the Mercedes assembly line that was the focus of the study. In this light, researchers argue older workers may be an invaluable asset that many companies underuse.
“Even in a work environment requiring substantial physical strength, [productivity’s] decline with age is compensated by characteristics that appear to increase with age and are hard to measure directly, such as experience and the ability to operate well in a team when tense situations occur, typically when things go wrong and there is little time to fix them,” the researchers note.
From their observations, the scientists realized that older workers made fewer or less severe mistakes, while younger workers tended to make more frequent and drastic mistakes. “It is experience that prevents severe errors,” they say, noting that previous productivity studies fail to account for times when an older worker instructs a younger colleague on how to perform a task correctly and efficiently.
Highly educated younger workers tended to be less productive than their peers who did not have those credentials and fewer qualifications, the scientists say. They attributed this to possible boredom on the part of younger workers.
In addition, the study found that young female workers also tend to make fewer mistakes in the workplace, prompting researchers to believe a high rate of error it may be due to young male workers’ restlessness.
The study suggests retirement policies may not reflect the true abilities of older employees, researchers say.
"In many countries, lower productivity among older workers is used as a motivation for early retirement policies,” the study concludes. “If this were true, the aging populations in many developed countries would have negative effects on overall productivity. These results cast doubt on such beliefs."