Friday, 21 September 2012

Age discrimination amongst older workers

I confess that I have not often turned my mind to the concerns of older people both in terms of retirement considerations as well as workforce considerations.  As a person just starting out on their career (although a few years in investment banking has made me feel like an old man already) these issues seem a long way off for me. 

This post may not be as well researched as some of my other posts where I am trying to share knowledge that I have or have gained recently.  It will really be my thoughts on the issue of discrimination against older people, especially in terms of recruitment and hiring.

The problem was recently brought to my attention when an older extended family member was laid off and has been unable to find employment because he is too old and too experienced. This is almost the exact opposite problem that most young people have.  Young people have the issue of not being able to get a job because they are not experienced and not being able to gain experience because they cannot get a job.

With older people the problem is much bigger.  There are certain perceptions that exist in the community about older people including
  • They are set in their ways and are unable to learn anything new - "you cant teach an old dog new tricks"
  • You do not know how long they will work for you - "they are getting close to retirement anyway"
Employers are really missing out on a very valuable part of the workforce

We constantly see on television that because the unemployment rate is so low (~5%) in Australia employers are finding it hard to find people to do the necessary jobs and as a result wages are going through the roof. 

In this sort of an environment you would think that the ability to gain an employee who was both significantly experienced and potentially motivated to stay with your company for some time would be a valuable commodity.  However for some reason employers do not think of it this way.  They forget that:
  • These members of the workforce have forgotten more than you could ever hope to teach a young employee
  • They typically do not feel the need to 'prove themselves' and (in my experience) they play politics a lot less in the workforce
  • They are part of the older generations mentality when it comes to employers. 
    • A lot has been said about my generation (Gen Y) in that they have no loyalty to the companies they work for.  This is completely true.  I view myself as working for my own benefit and I am more than happy to move if someone else is offering me more or if I feel it would be better for me. 
    • Unlike me older generations have real commitment and loyalty to their employers.  Why employers forget an important thing like this is beyond me
If I was a business owner I would think that 'overqualified' employees would be much better for your organisation than underqualified

One problem older people face is that when they have climbed the corporate ladder for their entire lives and then lose their jobs, finding a job to pay the bills is actually much harder because people will not employ an ex manager type person for an ordinary job because of the perception that they are using that job as a stepping stone to better employment.

I would have thought thought that, even if this was true

, extracting all the benefit that you could out of them before they move on or lining them up for potential promotion if they did prove themselves quickly would be of significant benefit to the organisation.
My family member falls within this 'overqualified' class.  He was a high flyer in a multi-national for a very long time.  After getting laid off however he is more than content to find a job where he can do a good days work and then come home without having to climb the ladder.  He is also one of the smartest people I know.  However for the reasons mentioned above he cannot find a job.

I would be interested to know why employers tend to avoid older employees.  The younger ones do not stick around for any longer (see my comments re Gen Y above) and have significantly less experience.  If you have any thoughts on this I would love to hear them so please comment below.

You may also be interested in:
Recruiting - all topics
Do I need to wear expensive clothes to work?
Weekend Warrior - all topics
There is no such thing as a free lunch

No comments:

Post a Comment