Ageism: Why Older Employees Deserve a Fair Chance

Virtually any employer would agree that everyone deserves equal opportunity and general respect, yet so many don’t know that they’re holding people’s age against them. Not only is this completely unfair (and illegal), but a lot of organizations never see how this attitude creates huge missed opportunities.

Understanding Ageism
Simply put, ageism is the practice of discriminating against older individuals based on assumptions and ingrained stereotypes. To the younger generations, middle-aged citizens or seniors are seen as technologically illiterate, physically weak and — in the case of employment — unlikely to last long due to impending retirement. It’s this lack of expected tenure and automatic distrust that makes many recruiters worried. They assume that older people won’t stay put long enough to justify the training, or that teaching them new systems and processes will be painstakingly frustrating. In short, their age automatically raises images of incompetence, not experience. It’s a shameful trend that needs to stop.

Ultimately, ageism in recruitment boils down to a few matters — all of which are unfounded.

Tenure Concerns
The most ironic aspect about ageism in the workplace is that, while many of these candidates may retire in the coming years, odds are that they’ll last longer than their younger counterparts.

Most millenials stay in their current job for an average of four years, leading them to “job hop” from one place to the next in search of novelty or better work-life balance. This isn’t the case with their elders.

In terms of employment, our parents and grandparents favored job security above all else. This is why it was common — even expected — for them to literally spend decades working in the same place. Even if a candidate is in his late 50s, statistics prove that he’ll be the one watching staff come and go like a revolving door before he allegedly succumbs to the stresses of a modern workplace.

Obsolete Job Skills
As stated earlier, previous generations often have decades of tenure in their fields — much more than the recent graduates who, ironically, struggle to land jobs due to lack of experience. If somone in her later years has just been laid off or quit, then she’s clearly been fine until this point.

With the exception of proprietary internal programs, most companies use the same universal software, such as Microsoft Word, Outlook or Excel. If the candidate in question worked with such software in his previous job, then he’ll carry on these transferable skills.

Health Concerns
Another unfortunate assumption is that older people are inherently unhealthy. While our bodies do degrade over time, this certainly doesn’t mean we’ll be incapable of functioning; however, organizations aren’t keen on things like sick leave, especially if it’s paid.

Absenteeism is a serious, legitimate concern, but the truth is that previous generations value things like dedication, punctuality and hard work. They take pride in being the best, and their performance will reflect this. Everyone calls in sick once in a while, but people who value their jobs won’t resort to this lightly. Younger employees are much more likely to miss work to accommodate family needs or entertainment. Consequently, they’re also more likely to be terminated because of poor attendance.

Obtaining work is hard, and many recruiters will discover that finding good employees is considerably harder. While it’s often difficult to shut down our subconscious habits, this is no excuse to miss out on a demographic that can truly benefit an otherwise stagnant economy.

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