Saturday, April 21, 2012

Book Review: "Retirement on the Line"

Frank Koller, in reviewing Retirement on the Line: Age, Work, and Value in an American Factory by Caitrin Lynch, says that "Lynch convincingly argues that regardless of age, people 'just want to matter.' With a rapidly aging population, the U.S. has to find ways to better harness the tremendous experience, energy and wisdom of its older citizens."

Lynch's book is the product of five years of research exploring Vita Needle, a small private manufacturing company in suburban Boston, which began to concentrate 20 years ago on hiring workers nearing or over the traditional retirement age of 65 and which now has 49 employees, with an average age of 73 and a few of whom are over 90. Koller says that "Lynch's book, however, asks tough questions about the ethics of Vita's reliance on "eldersourcing" and its relevance to the broader economic challenges facing the nation."
In my writing about the competitive advantages of formal no-layoff policies, this issue comes up repeatedly: why bother with a management system so different from what everyone else uses?

Lynch's answers are similar to mine.

First, Vita's long-term financial success (which the firm argues is directly supported by its hiring of older employees) "suggests that a practice that can be good for business can also be good for workers." It's certainly not about "being nice" to old people.

Second, does any thinking person believe that conventional management systems -- the ones which so quickly shed so many millions of workers in recent years -- are currently working well for the country as a whole?
Source: Huffington Post "Paid Work -- Long Past 65 -- Can Benefit Everyone" (April 20, 2012)

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