Technology has encroached into the workplace, providing tools that can help employees increase their work productivity and efficiency. More companies are also beginning to see the collaborative and monetary benefits of a diverse workforce; these factors combined it could be assumed that workplace discrimination is no longer apparent and technology is the driving force of it. However, it appears that when it comes to tech and the roles within the industry, the generations who were pioneers in this sector are now on the peripheries. The cliques have been formed, judgements made and the result? A mean girls response of "You can't sit with us" is felt by older generations when in the workplace.
Why is age discrimination the last taboo to be tackled? How can managers overcome losing necessary experience and knowledge and combine it with the fresh innovation of a younger generation of workers?
Many questions surround the workplace age debate but arguably the most important question is "how old is too old?" There is no definitive age in which an employee becomes too old however the insurance company Canada Life Group, defined the age to be 55 when they conducted a survey amongst 1,000 UK workers. Their results confirmed the belief that older generations are overlooked and marginalised as only 12% of this demographic felt that they were respected at work. This has been further confirmed by Lee Hecht Harrison Pennas 2017 study that revealed that age was the most influential factor on whether employees received a promotion or not.
Silicon Valley is renowned for worshipping the youth. Management Today commented on their promotion of the idea that they possess creativity, energy and enthusiasm, the ability to imagine a new and better future as opposed to older generations who apparently do not. Mark Zuckerberg even went as far to say in 2007 that young people are just smarter. The prejudice runs deep within technology however, the notion of the young replacing the old is not a new notion across business in general and the bias appears to be overlooked and even accepted.
The theory that as we get older we are unable to learn new skills, making elder candidates less desirable for tech-based roles as the ever-changing industry based on innovation is too fast paced, has been blown out of the water. Neuroscientist Dr. Tara Swart found that a human's neuroplasiticity - the function of the brain that allows us to keep learning, retrain old habits and lose unwanted behaviours continues to perform as we get older, if continued to be stimulated through learning, healthy diet and exercise. This revelation proves that such opinions on why people should not be put forward for positions is unjustified but there's hope as an ageist mindset can be changed.
To not alienate a workforce who have the knowledge and experience whilst still attracting young candidates to your business is the challenge that managers must overcome if they are to obtain the skills necessary to future-proof their successes and ultimately, ROI.
What are the solutions?
Combine experience and industry insight with the thirst for knowledge and excitement for change by creating a mentoring programme. Two generations of workers that may not necessarily speak in the normal working environment can help one another to gain new skills, approaches to work and outlooks on technological innovation through mentoring. This will also help to reduce stigma that both age demographics face in business; that young people are trying to take jobs yet do not know a lot and older workers are not helpful or willing to learn.
The research carried out by Dr. Tara Swart in neuroplasiticity proves that elder generations of workers can be retrained, learn new skills and adapt to change. A demographic that is currently overshadowed within technology can be utilised and help to narrow the skills gap facing the UK rather than contributing to it. Invest in training courses and development programmes for all workers that need to be upskilled - even younger employees will need to be trained too.
A US technology recruiter told The Boston Globe in 2016 that if they were to recommend candidates who were over 45 years old, their clients would laugh at her and ask why she was wasting their time. It is evident that managers need to be agents of change to overcome ageism and it starts at the recruitment process.
Our consultants can help you find the right candidate with the skills you need, regardless of age. Their search and results are based on your requirements and unearthing the candidate you need to add value and talent that is currently lacking.
Without change, growth won't happen
It is down to managers to understand their company culture and create one that is inclusive for all, including age. The people who believe that children are the future and ignore older generational talent will themselves be old one day too, yet they appear to forget that they could easily become unattractive, unnecessary and unwanted in the workplace just because of their age. To safeguard a business managers need to look to the future and remember that as technology evolves so do people - age is inevitable but biases can be changed. The skills gap will only widen if organisations ignore large pools of talented candidates; leaving companies understaffed and under skilled and therefore open to a fall in productivity, employee attraction, employee retention and profit.
It is clear that companies can and need to overcome ageism within the workplace and UK job market however, do old habits die hard?