**Guest blog post by Dylan Langer.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defined Ageism as prejudice or discrimination against a particular age group and predominantly the elderly. Unfortunately, for those more advanced in years, there are fewer opportunities to stay in their careers or transition into employment elsewhere after about age 45.
According to a Reuters.com editorial authored by Patricia Reaney and published on Oct 19, 2015: Ageism in U.S. workplace: a persistent problem unlikely to go away, “The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 20,588 charges of age discrimination in 2014, a rise from 17,837 a decade earlier. Although the number dropped from a peak of 24,582 in 2008, legal and employment experts said it is a common phenomenon that will increase with Millennials eager to enter the workforce and baby boomers reluctant to leave it.”
The article goes on to assert that many approaching retirement do not have enough saved for their retirement to take care of them the next 20 years, and that’s worrisome as companies are forcing them out in preference to hiring younger people. This is seen as a cost-cutting measure to move out the higher earning elders and bring in the newer, younger versions, paying them less money to do the same work.
Now it seems that the older generation isn’t quite ready to leave the workforce causing a scarcity of jobs for younger people and also not many opportunities if an older worker decides to look for another job. The aging population of baby boomers is vast comparatively to other generations that followed, and many of them are selecting to work far past their peers’ commonly observed retirement age of 65.
The same Reuters.com article from above stated that “Although the Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967 prohibits discrimination against people 40 and older, a 2013 survey of 1,502 adults by non-profit advocacy group AARP showed that two-thirds of workers between the ages of 45 to 74 said they have seen or experienced ageism. There is a presumption that job performance decreases with age despite all the research showing it doesn’t.”
Reverse age discrimination or reverse ageism is a reality as well. Young supervisors and managers, if they can get hired at all, are finding older co-workers and colleagues don’t respect or want to collaborate with them due to their youth and perceived inexperience. Being single, without children, and eager to prove themselves makes them a target for abuses such as reduced salaries, loss of promotions and workloads that are greater than that of other colleagues. In some cases, a young individual may not receive a new job solely due to their age, even if the candidate has the qualifications for a position.
What many companies fail to realize is a diverse workforce with persons of varying:
- Cognitive Style
- Organizational Function
Diverse workers can create incredible opportunities to out-collaborate, out-think, out-maneuver, out-innovate, and out-perform competitors who have narrower varieties of persons within their organization.
Younger people are having a hard time finding jobs right out of college. There are not enough entry-level opportunities available. Companies today are looking for applicants with more than five years of applicable work experience and that’s a particularly difficult challenge for the college grad looking for their first opportunity to crack into an industry. If more companies were willing to take chances on these workers, it would be beneficial for both sides.
The many benefits of hiring a young candidate can be obvious such as their potential for possessing innate technology savvy as the generation who has had the most exposure over their lifetimes to all the electronics available today. Of course, many will point to the negative aspects associated with the youth entering the job market today (e.g., they’re overindulged, impatient, and self-absorbed). An employer might begin to wager whether there are consequences for favoring older applicants or employees over younger ones.
All things considered, no company should hire someone based on their age. That’s ridiculous. Everyone should be hired based on whether they have the ability and potential or even the existing know-how to perform in their respective job. There is something each end of the spectrum has to offer the other. There’s an energy that youth brings, an eagerness to invest themselves fully into knowing how something works or how it can be better. The older group of workers have tribal knowledge; information learned over time that is valuable when shared with the younger set. With equal measure respect, patience, and a fair dose of humility on either side, both are indispensable in today’s workforce. Teaming them up together can only serve to provide the benefits listed previously.
In the end, if the person can do the job, I don’t think age should play a part in the decision. Hire the best candidate. Hire the person who has a great attitude, is reliable, really wants the job, and is going to work hard for you even if they don’t yet have all the skills. If you think they are teachable, hire them.