For many of us, age is just a number.
Seemingly, NOT a number in the enterprise workforce!
Sadly, ageism or age discrimination is embedded and persistent in the modern-day workplace culture.
Deliberate or not, prejudices and discrimination against older employees is encountered no matter the age. While many leading organizations embrace the principle of inclusivity and age diversity in the workplace, are they alert to the signs of ageism? Certainly not. Negative stereotypes within the company culture still show up across teams even in top organizations.
Let’s separate the myths from the facts.
Myth: Old workers are less productive, less digitally savvy, and difficult to get along with.
Fact: Performance is not linked with age. Regardless of age, it’s your work ethic and competency that gains a competitive advantage.
Needless to say, the modern-day workplace is youth-obsessed. Working in an environment where different generations work together still favours hiring and promoting young people.
The purpose of the blog is to understand what ageism or age discrimination at the workplace is, the impact of ageism, and how to combat its effects at the workplace.
What is ageism in the workplace?
Put simply, ageism is the act of discriminating or stereotyping against a person based on age. The myth that older workers are less reliable and unproductive is a prejudicial practice that is both a personal, and more so, a societal issue. Ageism in the workplace is unfairly encouraged as younger workers are perceived as being more adaptable to technology and new-age roles,
A few instances of ageism that occur in the workplace include;
- Allowing youths to attend training while prohibiting older employees.
- Distinguishing between the efficiency level of older and younger employees.
- Making comments about memory loss caused by aging, if you have failed to remember.
- Younger colleagues passing comments about the age of older employees.
- Denial of corporate privilege (leading the team, heading a presentation, etc.,) to older employees due to perceived poor skill sets.
- Turning down a female candidate for promotion because they are mothers or ‘moms to be’.
- Assuming that employees over 50 years of age are slow and inefficient to adapt to the fast-evolving nature of technology.
Likewise, there are many such instances wherein mature-age workers are prone to such prejudices in the workplace. And it starts even before hiring. The age discrimination stats speak for themselves:
- According to a survey by JobBuzz in 2023, about 33% of Indian employees face age-based discrimination in their workplace.
- While 90-95% of employees consider age bias to be common, 60% of older employees have experienced age-related discrimination in the workplace
- 93% of employees aged over 50 years believe that ageism is a regular occurrence.
- 64% of women and 59% of men have experienced age discrimination in the workplace, according to a study by AARP.
- The AARP survey reveals that 2 out of 3 women aged above 50 face age discrimination regularly.
Uncanny but true, senior folks beyond 50 years of age are denied equal opportunities for growth and training, unlike younger employees.
It’s time to seriously challenge such long-standing assumptions with respect to age. The question that arises is – how do you address this generation skill gap?
To answer this, let’s identify the root cause of the generation skill gap in today’s workplaces.
Causes of the generation skill gaps in the tech workplace
- The oversupply of younger workers outweighs the older gang, leaving them unable to compete on a level-playing field.
- Less technical fluency in the older gen leads to a generation skill gap that is plaguing the tech industry at present.
- Disputes and disrespectful behaviour between generations thwartsprogress and harmony at work.
- Companies specifying age brackets for job profiles while hiring for a post subtly judge candidates based on age.
Generational skill gaps in the tech workspace can take several forms and has the potential to affect career paths and even the loss of jobs. Any preconceived notion about older employees is driven by the manager’s decisions that can deprive an employee of new opportunities.
Impact of Ageism in the Organizational Set Up
Ageism or age discrimination often goes unnoticed in the workplace. Alienating older employees and adopting a negative attitude towards them can cause several problems for organizations in the long run. Apart from creating a negative work environment, ageism contributes to a loss in employee productivity, limits the potential for innovation and success, and reduces business turnover.
Here are some of the potential consequences of ageism in the workplace:
- Affects mental health – Age discrimination in the workplace creates a severe psychological impact on older employees. Ageist remarks in the form of playful teasing creates a feeling of isolation that leads to severe mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and withdrawal to engage in corporate activities.
- Affects physical health – Ageism negatively affects physical health as older employees experience negative emotions which can take a toll on them. Age discrimination at the workplace results in increased stress, depression, a feeling of being undervalued, and lowered life satisfaction. Less workplace support from co-workers and supervisors creates emotional exhaustion and a poor lifestyle,(such as lack of exercise, no sleep, smoking, etc.) which eventually leads to serious health concerns.
- Lowers morale of the business – Unfair treatment or behaviour from other employees often goes unnoticed within the workplace setting. Discrimination against older people is associated with poor interpersonal skills, which affects both motivation and work output.
- Hampers productivity in the workplace – Workplace discrimination based on age and stereotypes creates incompetence and hurts productivity, customer service, andother areas of the business. Age-related bias and unfair treatment emit negative vibes about a lack of personal accomplishment that negatively affects productivity.
- Businesses miss out on experience – By judging candidates based on age,businesses can lose potential workers who are highly experienced at work. Thisleads tomissed business opportunities followed by loss in business productivity and output.
So, you see, ageism or age discrimination in the workplace harms both employers and employees. Ageism is alive and the problem of age bias in the workplace should be dealt with seriously. Science says that keeping pace with emerging technology has nothing to do with age, as long as the person has the right mindset. Also, age can never be the determinant of competency and success. Sadly, bias against older workers in the workplace is still prevalent across organizations, corrupting organizational cultures in the process.
For HR professionals, tackling ageism in the workplace is challenging. As such, discriminatory practices don’t go away by themselves. Here are 5 best ways to combat ageism in the workplace:
How to Combat Ageism in the Workplace – Top 5 Ways to Handle
If you deny the existence of ageism in the workplace, you are making a big mistake. To fight ageism in the workplace, you must first accept that age discrimination exists in today’s modern workplace culture. Next, you must implement concrete measures to prevent age bias within your organization.
Watch for workplace cues
One way to combat ageism in the workplace is to identify possible social cues that appear to be harmful to organizational culture. Look for cues such as pranks on age, ageist word choice in organization communication campaigns, stray remarks on older employees, and more.
Create an inclusive environment
Include age diversity in the hiring strategy. This can go a long way in encouraging equality in the workplace. It’s high time that hiring managers take a direct stand against age discrimination or condemn any unfair practices within the workplace.
Training and promotional opportunities
Training the multi-generational workforce is the urgent need of the hour to avoid age discrimination. As HR managers and IT recruiters, you must provide specific training across all generations that dispels myths about older employees.
Being vigilant in the workplace about word choice, language use in recruitment communication, and being sensitive about discriminatory comments can help alleviate age discrimination. Whether it’s recruitment ads, feedback, or any other corporate communication, make sure that employees are mindful of the language, adhere to discrimination policies. If the policy is not defined well, better re-write the discrimination policy to manage conflict or deal with age-related criticisms sensitively.
89% of mentors and mentees believe their work is valued by their peers, and 87% feel empowered and more confident as a result of mentorship programs. Design mentoring training programs that focus on career prospects and working experience for older workers. This will help remove obstacles on the job, both personally and professionally. Also, such a one-on-one approach will result in building a more respectful and productive relationship, creating a more inclusive workplace environment.
In a Nutshell
The battle against ageism or age discrimination in the workplace is age-old and ongoing. Only a coherent human resource strategy can help alleviate this problem that’s causing significant anxiety amongst the older workforce, especially in tech companies.
It’s time that the HR department and technology recruiters take serious preventive measures against ageism in the workplace. This includes implementing age-inclusive training and hiring processes, awareness sessions, establishing age-inclusive HR policies, and defining exclusive behavioural standards.
With this approach, your employees can not only become more productive, but you can also save on the cost of experience and expertise in the long run. With age comes experience. You can easily generate a return on investment if older employees take on the role of senior technicians to supervise and mentor the new bees. Besides, you won’t need to micromanage your team while you spend time productively in growing the business. It’s a win-win for both the employers and the employees.
Regardless of the generational difference, one such instrument that enables upskilling multigenerational workforces with a “learning by doing” approach is the Techademy Experiential Learning platform (LXP). Our best-in-class customized courses are backed by a data-driven approach that unifies learning, skill-building, and career development.
The best part? Well, by incorporating such projects into their daily work, your staff can develop interpersonal skills, such as optimism, confidence, self-efficacy and competency with role-based skills that aligns with their job.
Through this, skills gaps can be closed, ideal skill sets can be developed, and training initiatives can be personalized and enhanced across generations to keep them competitive in the long run. Don’t believe us? Try our learner-centric tool today and experience our integrated LXP in action and see how this can help you!