Old but Gold: Why hire Older Workers?

As people become more health-conscious and with better healthcare and medical advances, a higher life expectancy is a new reality, globally.

Companies need to understand what this means for them and come to accept and value of an older worker.

They need to rethink their HR policies and put in place systems and processes to leverage the strengths and potential of an older workforce.

But, who are our 'Older Workers'?

Did you know that from an economic perspective, an older worker is a person with more than 15 years of experience, regardless of age?

According to a recent study conduced by the French Association “A Compétence Egale” (which fights against discrimination in companies) an employee is considered to be an older worker from the age of 49.6.

Despite this numbers, it is important to note that the definition can vary depending on the company, the sector, the country and the position of the Recruiter or Candidate –perhaps we can be more generous with an average of 52.7 years.

What about the senior’s employment prospects in European countries?

While France’s employment rate for the seniors has been steadily increasing, it remains low compared to other European countries, particularly in the over 60 age group.



For a European average of 60.5% at the beginning of 2023, the employment rates of older people vary from 43.8% in Romania to almost 77% in Sweden. France is in 16th place out of 27, with an employment rate for older workers of around 56%.

Broadly speaking, we can observe the culture of "regulation by the labour market" in Western countries, guided by the economic situation, the "culture of duty to work and to remain in employment", which is found particularly in Japan, or the "culture of the right to work at any age" in the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands, whereas France seems to be more sensitive to a "culture of early exit".

In a particularly tight labour market, this is a major issue linked to demographic change, as people in their fifties represent the main pool of available labour. This raises the question of the respective roles of the different generations in our societies, their place in the production of wealth, the transmission of knowledge, as well as the new forms of solidarity that can unite them.

A topical political issue in France

While the French government is working on new pension reforms, it’s relevant to understand how the situation is evolving, nationally.

In 2021, the rate was 5.8 points lower than the European Union, with a gap that widens to 12 points for the 60–64-year-old age group.

During the 1970s, employment policies encouraged the withdrawal of older people from the employment market in order to favour access to work for younger people. The retirement age was reduced from 65 to 60 years with early retirement schemes, this largely led to a reduction in the employment rate of older people.

The trend has been reversed 20 years later.  As a result of the ageing of the population, the increase in life expectancy and therefore the growing cost of financing pensions, the authorities have had to adapt their policy and work to maintain the employment of older people. Many reforms have followed with the effect of increasing the employment rate of older people by more than 8 points in 10 years.

However, in the same period, the unemployment rate of this population has risen sharply, with temporary contracts. Several measures have been implemented, such as the Senior CDD, the employment skills pathway, the cumulative employment – retirement scheme and government subsidies.

In March 2023, a vote was taken to create a new type of contract, an "End-of-Career" contract to promote the recruitment of 60+ employees.

Beyond the flexibility of commitment and financial advantages, what value do older workers bring to the workplace?

Five reasons why older workers are an asset to organizations:

  1. Cost/benefit ratio: The question of the cost of a senior employee is often still a barrier to hiring them, but the subject should be approached in its entirety; it is important to think in terms of cost/benefit ratio and not only in financial cost.
  2. Experience and network are an asset: Their experience is a great benefit. They can leverage this to solve all kinds of problems. They’ve most likely seen similar situations before and can deal with crisis better. Given their years of work, they generally have great contacts and business relationships in place that they can leverage.
  3. They are loyal and display a greater level of professionalism: They are also better communicators. Given their vast experience, they are used dealing with all types of people, which makes them good at customer service.
  4. They are great mentors: They have good transferable skills with the patience to teach and the willingness to do so. It makes them happy and fulfilled knowing that they can impart their knowledge to someone else. The senior member of a team encourages intergenerational cooperation.
  5. They have an open mindset: They are passionate about being a valuable team member and enjoy being part of a group of diverse people, in an environment where respect is key. Workplaces that hire older people are generally more harmonious, which leads to higher productivity.

Mature workers reduce turnover and absence costs. Research consistently indicates that older employees, with their loyalty and commitment, reduce turnover and absenteeism costs in their organisation.

So, what are you waiting for? Believe in yourself! Employers, make the most of this fabulous resource!


The new leadership skill

CSR commitment has become an essential pillar of corporate strategy.

It involves obtaining a CSR label and the support of all the company's employees.

Why integrate CSR issues into leadership?

CSR is all the efforts made by companies to apply the principles of sustainable development.

It is based on three fundamental pillars:

80% of the CEOs of the world's leading companies consider a commitment to social responsibility to be an essential competitive advantage for their company.

The awareness of managers and their actions in the environmental and societal field is a positive development and a fundamental trend. A company's performance cannot be solely financial, it must be global.

It is therefore essential to develop the CSR strategy and management policy together.

This can be done by: implementing more teleworking, promoting diversity, paying more attention to equality issues during recruitment, and implementing CSR training.

How can we ensure that CSR is supported by the management line?

Management makes it possible to put CSR into action. Without this, there is a risk that it will remain a more or less coherent set of initiatives, unrelated to the company's strategy, indifferent to its businesses, and outside the daily lives of employees.

Raising awareness and training the management line

CSR remains a complex, multiple and ever-changing subject.

It is necessary to create a minimum knowledge base for all players and then to develop specific skills for each business line (governance, responsible purchasing, etc.).

This requires, at the instigation of the HRD for example, carrying out generic awareness-raising operations (e.g. via e-learning), including CSR in induction courses and "business" training modules and using internal communication mechanisms (posters, newsletter, intranet, social networks) to sustain the CSR culture over time.

Demonstrate the link between CSR and business

CSR has long been considered a constraint, a way to manage risks or repair impacts.

It is time to realise that it is an opportunity to meet the growing expectations of customers, to adapt to changes in the economic context (towards a functional, circular and collaborative economy), to innovate (inventing new products and services) and to provide the necessary fuel for the company's transformations.

Integrating CSR into the company's various projects

If CSR appears to be a "separate issue", it will not be carried by the management line. It is therefore necessary to try to integrate social, societal and environmental objectives upstream, from the design of the projects deployed.

Integrating CSR into HR management processes

This may involve taking into account new criteria in recruitment or annual appraisals, or revisiting skills guidelines or managerial charters. It can also mean introducing CSR objectives into the calculation of a part of the variable remuneration of executives and managers. Danone, Orange and Pernod-Ricard in France are among the pioneering groups in this area.

Using CSR as a cement for the team project

The manager is the leader of the collective project of his entity. They can make CSR an integral part of this project.

For example, the objectives of diversity and professional equality can feed into their approach to recruitment, promotion and remuneration; their company's responsibility towards the employability of employees can feed into their approach to access to the training plan, etc.

Managers can discuss the economic, social and environmental aspects of performance at team meetings.

Making CSR a tool for integrating Generation Y

83% of young people born between 1980 and 1995, who will represent 75% of employees worldwide in 2025,  believe that companies must get involved in societal issues. The manager can innovate by appealing more explicitly to each of these issues.

Create a moment of cohesion and celebration around CSR and its contributions

Reinforcing the integration of CSR into everyone's daily work is essential and the manager has a key role to play, including by example. Any opportunity to celebrate the company's CSR performance with all employees contributes to improving everyone's positive perception.


CSR is abundantly displayed but little embodied. It is by mobilising the managerial line, the "CSR rope line", that companies succeed in taking the path of sustainable value creation but also of motivating and inspiring development.

Talent in the Green Energy Sector

The energy transition was born in Germany in the 1980s and is now well known with the word “Energiewende”.

It has now become a global megatrend with the growing necessity to transform energy generation and reduce carbon emissions. In 2015, France implemented the "Energy Transition Law" aimed at developing a new energy model, "Green Growth", and so contributing more effectively to the fight against climate change.

The targets appear clear accelerated by the current situation in Ukraine: Reduce fossil fuels and transform the entire energy systems to a carbon neutral generation with renewable energies and hydrogen.

To achieve the European Climate Deal targets by 2050, France's objectives are to increase the use of renewable energies from 12% to 32% of final consumption, to reduce final energy consumption by 50% and to diversify electricity production, in particular by reducing the share of nuclear power (40% to date). The main efforts will have to focus on housing and transport, which together consume 80% of national energy.

As this example from France shows, this global and progressive transformation will of course affect us all, including with the emergence and development of new professions. Generally speaking, for the past 10 years, global renewable energy employment has been booming:

In the solar sector, employment in France will rise from 18.000 in 2020 to 25.000 in 2028. One reason companies are recruiting so much is because they have to cope with the exponential growth in demand for equipment.

The energy transition needs talented leadership.

The 250 main players have hiring plans for 2022 and this seems to be only the starting point. That is 40 to 100 jobs to be created per company. In demand are engineers, financial engineers, project managers, IT experts with relevant skills and executives, who are able to lead an energy transition on a large scale.

The critical competition for talent is a burning topic for transforming energy companies.

In France, ENEDIS, the EDF subsidiary, is seeking to recruit 2,000 people, has set up recruitment hubs in many French cities in order to attract talent directly on the ground. But also the large Oil companies such as BP, Shell, Exxon and Total, and in Germany RWE and E.ON are desperately seeking a talented executive workforce to orchestrate this energy transition.

From the point of view of the economy this is critical as there is clearly competition for the best talents and companies tend to search for employees with a ready to start skillset. As a consequence companies are trying to hunt for talent from their competitors. An increase of salary level is to be expected as companies tend to pay retention bonuses to avoid “bloodletting” of their competencies. Experience from our own international executive research shows that currently the willingness to change jobs has focused on expert levels but also executive levels have significantly decreased.

Not only from the perspective of the EU economy, but it makes sense elsewhere to attract excellent talent from other industries which are also in transformation but with less future certainty, such as automotive industry.

The energy transition needs leadership competence. 

Bearing this in mind it makes sense for the energy,  engineering and manufacturing sectors to put effort into reducing their carbon footprint and to elicit support from a trusted international Executive Search partner - one who has an in depth knowledge of the market and relevant industry networks.

We are delighted to welcome Laurence Pinget to our offices in France.

Laurence has joined Friisberg from Transearch International as a Senior Consultant and will be based in both Paris and Strasbourg where she will focus on Executive Search and Talent Management. With an extensive experience of Executive Search and Management Consultancy, with a range of clients, industries and geographies, she considers each project to be an exciting and complex challenge, combining active listening with a thorough understanding of the company culture.

She has in depth knowledge of the French economy as well as many international firms including those in Consumer/Retail, IT/Digital, Life Sciences and has worked with private clients, private equity firms and family offices for over 15 years.

A graduate of the Strasbourg School of Management, she has a specialisation in industrial project management, and has developed an interest in international culture and languages speaking French, English, German and Spanish.

Her career began as a Business Manager in an IT and engineering services company in Paris and then in Strasbourg, where her main activities were business development, recruitment and management of engineers, focusing on the success of clients' projects. She then moved into Talent Acquisition, developing a new subsidiary of an engineering group.

Laurence lives in Strasbourg with her family and is passionate about sport including figure skating, running, skiing, biking and travelling.

Over the last two years, the Covid crisis has elicited stark changes within multiple business areas and Executive Search is no exception.

In my opinion, there have been two noticeable structural changes to our industry:

The wider use of video conferencing allows us now to significantly reduce the lead time to a first interview between a consultant and a candidate, or a client and a candidate. Arranging in person meetings, with all the diary negotiations that necessitated, was always problematic and in many ways life seems to have become more fluid. However, this ease of business is not all positive.

I have observed an increasing volatility of candidates within selection processes. Indeed the 'plug and play' aspect of video conferencing appears to result in many candidates committing to the process much less than in a face-to-face as the former requires a far lighter logistical input than the latter.

Some candidates engage in a recruitment process without any sincere motivation for making a professional change. And even if motivated, some candidates also would consider video interviewing a lesser process, versus face-to-face, and so sometimes do not give it the necessary preparation, time or attention. Some may even unconsciously believe they will be given a later opportunity to have a 'proper interview' but actually they adversely impact their chances to even qualify for the next step.

Video interviews can limit our capacity of thoroughly assess an individual as traditional paralinguistic nuances are distorted such as waving, opting for a blurred or fake backgrounds, poor connectivity etc.

There is no doubt that the rise of remote working has shaken up organisations by giving a reduced focus on where people decide to live relative to the the location of the company. This recent change elicits a larger pools of relevant candidates and consequentially a higher quality shortlist. This new WFH culture needs to be supported and lived by our clients - either through their own culture and conviction, or by mere pragmatism in reaction to what is a hugely competitive Talent market.

In spite of all the recent changes imposed upon our ways of working, effective Executive Search remains strongly based on the basics -  simply finding the very best leaders or problem solvers for the benefit of our clients.

Julien Wilhelm, Partner

Impact and Recovery

The French Market - Out of 2020 & Into 2021.

2020: A  Year of Contrasts

The French job market was heavily impacted by Covid-19 in 2020.

The country had a first lock down from mid-March to mid-May and a second lighter one in November.

Key figures show a dip in Q2 and rebound in Q3. Compared to 2019, jobs openings were at -40% (Q2) against +55% (Q3). This shows that the market massively compensated the losses on Q2.

This phenomenon repeats itself across almost every major specialism and sector, from middle to top management positions. The same figures appear for permanent and temporary contracts.

However, for 2020 as a whole, the total figure of newly created jobs is -18% compared to 2019.

Job Openings & Candidate Shortages

The massive difference between Q2 and Q3 created a very unpredictable market on different aspects: jobs and candidates’ availability.

After the world stopped for a few weeks in Spring 2020, we had a paucity of new assignments one month, and then of candidates the next. Clients put on hold every project, before opening positions little by little.

Every non urgent matter was postponed, and we waited patiently until further notice.

Then, in September/October, recruitment started again. Suddenly, we were retained on assignments left and right, but still we struggled with just a few candidates.

Were candidates unavailable? No, on the contrary. They were very open to discuss job opportunities. They were curious and eager to know about the market. First contact was easier than ever, but no one wanted to take the risk to go forward. A probation period was simply deemed too risky.

How to react?

As a ship on a stormy sea, we vowed to stay on course. When nothing is predictable, you can only rely on what you know. More than ever was the time to be a consultant: provide good counsel, keep our clients close, engage with them, communicate and give trusted insights.

Actively managing candidates and clients was crucial. As the recruitment processes became shorter, candidates became more unpredictable so we needed to make the process as smooth as possible.

What Next?

2021 started fast.

We must act proactively. We need to see what's coming: clients are already adapting, and this ever changing situation is our new reality.

As the situation is unusual and unpredictable, we tend more than ever to think for our clients. We must be there for them and keep on delivering the best service possible. We are all making this reality our new reality.

Julien Wilhelm
Partner France

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