Over half of all U.S. adults are 45 or older, but age discrimination continues to be a problem. Ageism in the workplace is usually the result of negative stereotypes about aging, and employers should fight these stereotypes. Many studies have shown that diversity in the workforce – including age diversity – increases company performance and profitability.
Is your company excluding job candidates due to age? For example, do you automatically exclude resumes featuring more than 15 years of experience? Do you exclude resumes with older college degrees? It might not be intentional. You might have a screening bot that automatically narrows down the field in a way that could be discriminatory.
Or perhaps you have allowed yourself to become swayed by ageist stereotypes. For example, you may be acting on the assumption that people over 40 are no longer in touch with the latest technology. You may fear an older person could be past their prime or subject to infirmities that could affect their job performance. Or perhaps you question whether you can afford someone so advanced in their career.
The result of these stereotypes is pernicious and, unfortunately, quite common. Interestingly, age discrimination may be more common in larger companies, as small businesses tend to be more willing to bring older people into leadership positions.
Use a data-based approach and consider age part of diversity and inclusion
The truth is that older, more experienced people have at least as much to offer as younger people. The truth is that viewpoint diversity matters. That said, age should never be the determining factor in getting a job or promotion.
Refusing to hire or promote older people goes against our value of equal rights and opportunities. And, studies have shown that, when older people are integrated throughout organizations, it lessens the discrimination older people experience in that organization and beyond.
Tips to avoid bias toward older workers
- Ask yourself if you are limiting access to apply by screening out applicants with significant experience. If you are, why? Is it to save on potential salary and benefits? Is it under the assumption that older people are on the cusp of retirement? Reconsider those beliefs.
- Avoid interview questions about age. For example, don’t try to get at an applicant’s age by asking if their kids are in college.
- Avoid focusing on youthful traits as beneficial. Don’t try to position yourself as a “young, agile company” or make hiring decisions on the basis of “energy.”
- Understand the value of older workers in terms of experience, knowledge, mastery, connections and judgment.
If you are unsure whether your hiring and promotion decisions are affected by age bias, talk to your employment law attorney.