Welcome to this series on Seniors. I hope you enjoy this thought-provoking and inspiring reading.
Discriminating or stereotyping a person based on their age is prejudice. It takes many forms and is especially common in the workplace.
In a workforce that’s steadily growing older, ageism today is more often an issue for older workers. Workers aged 55 and older will soon represent 25% of the nation’s workforce.
Recent trends show that people over the age of 45 are hired less than their 20-something colleagues and that older employees are often not given the proper support needed to continue growing and learning. This lack of training and attention often leads to older workers being passed over for promotion and even excluded from company activities, such as team building.
A tendency to force age-based resignations leaves older employees feeling isolated, disrespected, and fearing for their future. Aside from the decrease in morale and productivity that commonly results from ageism in the workplace, this type of discrimination poses problems and adversely affects the company in many ways.
Often after an aging employee has been fired, the employer realizes that they are tough to replace. Additionally, younger workers tend to be less “loyal” to their employers and are more likely to leave the company and look for new opportunities.
Why is Ageism so prevalent in the Workplace?
Ageism exists because of prejudices and uninformed opinions. Some common stereotypes related to people over the age of 50 in the workplace are that they are difficult to manage, resistant to change, technophobic, and less innovative.
Therefore, during the hiring process, management tends to give not-so-subtle hints that they are looking for “energetic,” “fresh,” and “agile” people, to discourage older workers from applying. Not meeting these meaningless criteria is a common reason why aging workers fail to secure a job that they might have been an excellent fit for.
The perceived unwillingness of aging workers to learn new skills and resistance to change reflects the employer’s reluctance to provide proper training for employees that are over the age of 50.
Fighting Ageism in the Workplace
Why are employers making these mistakes that lead to ageism in the workplace? Can this be fixed both for the sake of the nation’s aging workforce and companies? The best way to fight prejudice is and has always been to rely on robust, systematic solutions.
Having consistent protocols in place for dealing with aging employees and making them feel more included, respected, and appreciated is critical. In turn, younger employees will be more likely to see the company as a long-term home after witnessing that loyalty and hard work are rewarded.
Workers are also postponing retirement more and more, with 67% of workers aged 40-65 claiming that they want to keep working after turning 65. Any business could benefit a great deal from understanding this demographic and acting accordingly.
Mandatory retirement policies should be interpreted as a recommendation rather than a requirement. A more age-inclusive program would make both older and younger employees feel more confident about their choice to work for you and stay loyal.
Here are a few key steps that could make any company a better workplace for aging workers:
- The Optics: Be More Inclusive
Before a person decides to join your company, they are likely to check your website. Displaying pictures of aging people on your “About Us” page and other company visuals will demonstrate that your workplace is inclusive and does not discriminate or favour a certain age group.
- Adjusted Training Sessions
Training and development opportunities should be available to all employees if they are interested in learning and expanding their skill sets, regardless of their age or position in the workplace hierarchy. It’s good to encourage workers to develop their skills by offering incentives and encouragement. Hosting training sessions, with adjustments, is a positive way to combat ageism.
- A Reassuring Hiring Process
Remember to display a short text in your job post ads that reassure future candidates that they will not be discriminated against based on their age, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
- Promotions vs. New Employees
Aging employees get just as bored as younger ones if they are performing the same tasks day in and day out with little chance for change. They also expect their hard work and commitment to growth and self-improvement to be rewarded. Hiring an aging person and expecting them to do work in the same position with little chance of advancement is false progress. Giving out well-earned promotions to the best and the brightest, regardless of age, is a critical step in the commitment to an age-inclusive workplace.
- Retirement Plans
Offering retirement planning, elder care, and a safe space for workers to leave the workplace after years of loyal service are all signs of a real commitment to community values within a workplace.
- Healthcare Plans
Many businesses, especially SMEs, are reluctant to hire aging workers due to the possibility of mounting health costs. Therefore, offering a solid, reliable healthcare plan is an excellent way to stand out.
In today’s fast-paced work environment and frequent job-hopping among younger workers, this expense could pay off big-time in terms of retention, as well as help fight against ageism in the workplace.
- A Clear Downsizing and Resignation Process
The primary fear aging employees have is being the first to go during a company takeover or a downturn in business, regardless of their skills or performance. It’s good to be clear about the type of behavior that leads to being laid off. Proving clarity is also crucial. Make it clear during seminars and company training and onboarding sessions that processes and protocols exist for such situations so that all your hard-working employees feel safe.
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Nick Thorne is the founder of Nick’s Digital Solutions Limited. He lives in Levin, New Zealand.
Nick Thorne performs a cat scan