The Importance Of Older People In The Workplace

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It’s a sad reality that once people hit a certain age, their working life just isn’t the same anymore. Whether it’s struggling to find a job or being unable to move up the corporate ladder, ageism can negatively affect an employee in many different ways. 

While this prejudice undoubtedly harms individuals, it’s also having seemingly unintended consequences for the business. New research has found companies who employ and promote older workers are more innovative and thus better off. 

When companies hire the best people for the job (regardless of age), the culture of the workplace and also a company’s bottom line are better for it. This highlights the importance of valuing the experience and skill set of older employees. 

Workplace ageism starts early

Ageism in the workplace can come into effect as early as the age of 45. Workers of this age, be it, men or women, have trouble finding work or advancing in their current position. Once they hit the age of 50, it only gets worse. 

Job candidates can have extensive experience and still get passed over. In some cases, the search for a job can be over before the interview even begins. This is because some companies ask questions to an experienced and older IT worker such as, “Do you own a laptop?”

This type of question stems from the incorrect assumption that older workers lack the ability to be savvy with computer technology. This perceived lack of an essential skill in the modern workplace leads companies toward passing on extremely qualified job candidates due to their age. 

Ageism in the workplace is built upon a faulty premise. Leading Australian researchers looking into intergenerational employment have found the most innovative companies are the ones where the age of employees does not matter. This means more accepting companies are tracking better than companies who are openly ageist.  

Combating ageism at work 

One example of an innovative business is a health-engineering company. While the company does have a young chief executive officer, the chief has appointed 65-year-old workers to new roles that see them leading projects. 

By employing the best people for the job, companies are benefiting from the valuable and unique experiences of each person. The best person for the job could be in their 20s or 60s, yet they are hired because of their mindset and attitude. 

With more and more companies buying into this philosophy, certain stereotypes are beginning to lose their perceived truth. Namely, the fact that young people lack experience and older people have too much of it, is slowly making its way out of many companies’ mindsets. 

Workplace ageism is widespread 

This particular form of discrimination is rampant throughout the workplace. A study conducted by the Australian Seniors Insurance Agency found that close to half of the baby boomer respondents claimed they have been turned down for jobs since the age of 40. 

The study, which surveyed 1,200 people across Australia, found three in five people over 50 said they faced substantial obstacles when attempting to find a job. While more than two in five respondents reported feeling stuck in a rut because of limited opportunities. 

As more companies come to the conclusion ageism actually stifles knowledge exchange and creativity within a business, things can only improve. This spells good news for the many older workers who currently feel the workforce doesn’t value them. 

We need to overcome stereotypes

The sooner more companies begin to alter hiring processes with prejudicial stereotypes, the quicker their business will become more innovative and creative. 

Workplaces that welcome workers of all ages are thriving and it’s as simple as that. By gathering a diverse group of workers together, these progressive businesses are being rewarded with innovative and more creative ideas. 

These businesses are also helping to break down common and far-reaching stereotypes. Older people aren’t hindrances, they can use modern technology, and most importantly, their experience and skill set are real assets to the workplace. 

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