Is ageism a serious problem in the modern hiring world?
In today’s fast-paced, technologically driven economy, age is a sign of weakness, not respect for many organizations. Many employers use job descriptors such as “a candidate with a high-energy level” and “comfortable using social media” on job postings to deter older applicants from applying. While many positions today require certain skill sets, not hiring a candidate based on their age is called ageism.
Robert Butler was a physician, gerontologist, psychiatrist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, who coined the term “ageism” in 1969. While he was not the first to recognize a seemingly universal negative attitude toward those of advantaged age, as the first director of the National Institute on Aging, among holding other roles, he was the first to bring light to this problem.
According to Butler’s definition, ageism is “A process of systematic stereotyping of and discrimination against people because they are old, just as racism and sexism accomplish this with skin color and gender. Old people are categorized as senile, rigid in thought and manner, old-fashioned in morality and skills. Ageism allows the younger generations to see older people as different from themselves; thus they subtly cease to identify with their elders as human beings.”
Making a case for older generations in the workplace
Last year AARP published a detailed study called “The Business Case for Workers Age 50+: A Look at the Value of Experience” that found that older generations are valuable to the workplace due to their “high levels of engagement, stability, productivity and experience.” Unlike their younger peers, the researchers found, older employees are less likely to leave for another position. Through employing these workers, employers may be able to raise their employee retention rates.
Many workplaces are hesitant to hire older employees due to a perceived lack of technological knowledge, however this study found that an estimated 91 percent of older respondents use a smartphone, tablet or computer – a figure that has grown exponentially in the last year. As a result, for positions that require basic computer skills, age should not be a hindering factor any longer.
“Decision makers must remain inclusive and open minded.”
“Another value of workers age 50+ comes from their impact on the rest of the employee population,” the report found. “For example the high engagement, motivation, and experience of older workers can help cultivate a more positive and effective work environment, enhancing organizational productivity and business outcomes.”
Does ageism disproportionately affect certain demographics?
The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis conducted a study regarding long-term unemployment in 2015. While the study’s findings did correlate with similar findings that unemployment rates increase over the age of 65, the researchers found that older women were disproportionately unemployed instead of older men. According to the study, nearly half of all unemployed women are considered to be long-term unemployed. What this means is, once women quit or lose their jobs due to family responsibilities or other factors, employers are less likely to hire them than men as they age, according to PBS.
What can decision makers do about ageism in the hiring process?
To avoid ageism problems in the workplace, whether during the hiring process or regarding veteran employees, decision makers must remain inclusive and open minded. Especially during the hiring process, managers must evaluate applicants based on their skills, not just whether or not they would be a young, enthusiastic face to add to the team.
Through using pre-employment tests, hiring managers can avoid age discrimination problems by issuing skills test that will weed out unqualified candidates before they even step through the doors for an interview. Contact EmployTest today to learn more about how we can help you hire smarter at your workplace, starting today!