- More than 80% of hiring managers say that they are concerned about taking on employees 60+, or younger than 25.
- In a Q&A with Allwork.Space, Adzuna’s Chief Customer Officer Paul Lewis explains best practices when looking for jobs that are age-inclusive, as well as how to challenge ageism in the workplace.
- Anything that emphasizes a company’s efforts and investments in DEI or a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination is a green flag.
Although many shifts are happening in the workplace, both virtual and in-person, ageism remains.
Ageism is when employers treat an applicant or employee less favorably because of their age, which can apply to younger people with less experience, or older people who are close to what is traditionally considered retirement age.
According to a ResumeBuilder survey, nearly four in 10 hiring managers admit to reviewing applicants’ resumes with age bias. More than 80% of hiring managers also said that they are concerned about taking on employees older than 60 or younger than 25; less than half of them said age doesn’t factor into their hiring decisions.
Unfortunately, ageism is present in the hiring process, on the job, and sometimes when termination occurs. According to AARP, about three in five older workers have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace, and 76% of these older workers found that age discrimination was a hurdle to finding a new job.
In a Q&A with Allwork.Space, Adzuna’s Chief Customer Officer Paul Lewis explained best practices when looking for jobs that are age-inclusive, as well as how to challenge ageism in the workplace.
Allwork.Space: What does ageism look like in the workplace?
Paul Lewis: Many older Americans face age bias in the workplace, even though The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA” or “Act”) made it illegal to discriminate against employees 40 years of age or older.
Unfortunately, 78% of older workers claimed they’ve seen or experienced ageism in the workplace, according to AARP research — even though this kind of discrimination benefits no one in a tight labor market, including employers. Older adults have big fears that they will struggle to find a place in the new world of work because of age bias.
It’s a valid concern. Sectors that may find it easier to offer hybrid or remote work have not historically been the best at supporting older workers. For example, the tech sector is well placed to offer remote working, but also has a reputation for ageism at work. Identifying an inclusive culture goes beyond looking at the work system (in-office, hybrid or remote) and is more about looking at the company’s values.
For older adults who are looking for a business culture and team that would truly be a good fit, there are a couple of things to keep an eye on. For example, start by looking at the company’s job ads, as they can tell you about the culture and values, and if these are really age inclusive. In job postings, look for an inclusivity statement or language that specifically states that the company doesn’t discriminate based on age. Some organizations are not afraid to put this bluntly and proactively make their efforts to recruit older employees known. Anything that emphasizes a company’s efforts and investments in DEI or a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination is a green flag.
Beyond a company’s job ads, look at its website and social media pages. Do the images only showcase employees in their 20s and 30s? If the images aren’t age inclusive, it’s a red flag for older workers.
It’s another red flag if, during a virtual or in-person interview, anyone on the interviewer panel makes comparisons between the timeline of an older job candidate’s career path and their own. For example, comments like “I wasn’t even born when you went to college” are a sign that ageism might be present in the workplace.
Ask what the organization’s healthcare benefits look like upfront. If they are limited, that should be enlightening information to an older worker, as health conditions become more common as we age.
Allwork.Space: How can employees at any level identify and challenge an ageist work culture?
Paul Lewis: All employees in management positions — from mid-level management to senior leadership — need to be very intentional about creating equity in a hybrid or virtual-first environment, and that should include identifying and challenging an ageist culture.
Implementing unconscious bias training for all employees is a good foundation. Beyond this, creating equity is about making sure all employees are supported, challenged, reviewed, promoted and rewarded fairly, regardless of age.
Specifically, learning opportunities should be distributed to everyone, not just younger workers, with equal access to financial support for continued education or courses. Company meetings and activities should be inclusive to all age groups, and not leave out older workers. Challenging assignments should also be distributed evenly. Perhaps most crucially, promotions and raises should be based on performance, not age.
Executives and HR have to bear in mind that supervisors may need training to best support older workers. It’s the HR team’s responsibility to honestly assess the company’s hiring and promotion practices, and to ensure they are truly fair and don’t systematically favor younger employees over older professionals.
A business’ HR and marketing teams need to pay extra attention to company branding to make sure the company is avoiding inadvertent discrimination. For example, company descriptions can be inadvertently biased toward younger candidates simply because of the type of language used. Just a word or phrase like “high energy” could unintentionally insert bias. Make your organization’s age inclusive position clear throughout employee handbooks and all company messaging and policies. Age discrimination should be treated and sanctioned under the same heading as gender, race, and sexuality, and there should be clear guidance for escalating any concerns or complaints.
At the executive level, leaders should keep in mind the huge number of vacancies due to the Great Resignation. They should maintain that there should be no hesitation in hiring older applicants for positions, and they should emphasize this to hiring managers and HR. Older workers are a great asset to a workforce and companies should be doing what they can to attract, support and retain them.
To help older workers who are having a challenging time getting re-hired, companies could consider blind recruitment processes, or offering returnship or upskilling schemes to help workers with a few years out of the labor market to get back up to speed on the latest developments. These schemes can also help rebuild the confidence of returning older workers.
Executives should implement additional steps regarding health concerns to ensure applicants of all ages are not affected by age discrimination. Make your vaccine and remote policy clear in the job posting. Some older workers may be particularly vulnerable to COVID and other illnesses, so they may be looking to work remotely or on a hybrid schedule. Flexible working is also important. Health conditions and caring needs become more common as people get older and organizations need to accommodate this. Similarly, be upfront about pension arrangements and healthcare and emphasize these benefits, which are often of greater importance to older workers.