Companies everywhere are laying off workers as they struggle to cut costs in the wake of the recession. But are they sacking the right people?

It has long been accepted wisdom that older workers are the first to go in a downturn. Plenty of evidence says this approach doesn’t make sense.

For example research carried out by Hewitt Associates in 2007 found older Canadian workers are more emotionally and intellectually committed to their work than younger employees. Employees over the age of 61 are the most committed and commitment levels drop progressively with age. The least committed age group was for employees between 26 and 40, younger employees are slightly more committed.

In other words, the workers at the front of the redundancy queue are the people who care most about what they are doing. (There’s also evidence these older workers are the people who are the most skilled and are repositories of a company’s collective knowledge-base).

As Steve Roesler at My Venture Pad points out: “using  “age” or “years of service” as overarching drivers for these decisions might come back to haunt employers later.”

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