Don’t dump your older employees

Jun 10, 2019

“We need everyone’s talents. And we especially need those with a tremendous amount of experience, contacts, and proven skills.”

Maybe I’m just more aware of it now that I’m over 60, but it seems to me a lot of companies really treat their older folks poorly at the end of their careers. And it’s sad.

I was recently talking with a 58-year-old engineer who told me he retired early last year. When I asked him why – when he had been at the same company for 24 years – he said there’d been a management change and he could “see the handwriting on the wall.” Apparently the older employees were all being forced out or let go, one-by-one, only to be replaced with younger, less expensive people. He felt it was inevitable that he, too, would suffer the same fate if he stayed. He wanted to go out on a high note.

The sad thing is this fellow was still vital. One of the best sellers of work, even though not a principal, and he was in great shape mentally and physically. All of his talent, and all of his knowledge of the firm and its clients was lost. But maybe even worse, he left with a bad taste in his mouth and bitterness toward the organization he’d loyally served for the better part of his career. And he was willing to tell anyone who’d listen just that. Think about all of the negativity being spread through this guy’s entire network and the reputational damage he could cause the company.

The point is – with the tremendous labor shortage we are currently saddled with in the AEC industry – we need everyone’s talents. And we especially need those with a tremendous amount of experience, contacts, and proven skills. Maybe we don’t need to keep all these people in management jobs or positions of power, and maybe we need young blood with energy, fresh ideas, and enthusiasm. But they aren’t mutually exclusive. We can and should do both.

How is your firm handling this issue? Are you doing what you should to harness and employ the talents of your older employees? Or are you casting them aside like an old car that lacks today’s conveniences and has too many miles?

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.