Employees (40+) are legally protected against acts of discrimination based on age. However, in addition to how we act, ageism is also caused by stereotypes (our thoughts) and prejudices (our feelings) towards others. Combating ageism in the workplace isn’t easy. That’s why we’ve prepared four key strategies to help prevent ageism and strengthen your team!
1. Identify Signs of Workplace Ageism
Even the most well-intentioned of organizations have blind spots. However, taking the time to reflect on workplace practices will help you identify potential indicators of ageism. For instance, here are a few signs that ageism might be present in your workplace:
- Younger workers are offered more opportunities for training and development than older employees.
- When choosing between two candidates, the hiring team often chooses the younger (or older) person because of a “better culture fit.”
- New assignments are more often provided to younger employees.
- Mission critical assignments and tasks are assigned to older employees by default.
- People in the workplace joke or comment about the stamina, mental capacity, or ability of older workers (or younger workers)
- Employees are left out of company activities , such as happy hours or teambuilding events because of assumptions about their age.
- Layoffs disproportionately impact younger or older workers.
2. Align Team Behaviors
Addressing ageism begins with building awareness. Take time to analyze and understand the workplace mindset around age. As uncomfortable as it is to admit, many people hold stereotypes about certain age groups. Work with your team and hiring managers to address any preconceived notions about older workers, such as:
- They will retire soon.
- They’ve already reached their full potential.
- They won’t be interested in starting new projects.
- Their most important career moments are behind them.
Recognizing and challenging these stereotypes is the first step towards creating a workplace that celebrates our differences! Of course, the goal is to emerge as a stronger team that is equipped with the tools needed to create a better tomorrow.
3. Invest in Training and Development
Challenge your own assumptions about what type of support your employees need. Remove age from the equation and consider how you might be able to offer equal access to training and development, regardless of age. Everyone deserves the chance to strive for the next level in their career. For instance:
- Resist thinking that a younger employee doesn’t need technology training (or that an older employee does).
- Give all employees a chance to develop their skill set and take ownership of projects that will challenge them in new ways.
- Identify opportunities for employees of different age groups to collaborate, teach, and mentor each other.
We all have something to learn from each other!
4. Reevaluate Hiring and Recruiting Practices
Look back at recruiting data to identify potential gaps in your candidate demographics. This will help you pinpoint what needs to be improved upon throughout the rest of your hiring process. For example, after performing an audit of your hiring and recruiting practices you might decide to further evaluate components such as:
- Job descriptions that mention terms like “new grads” or “young team.”
- Job advertisements on only digital platforms that reach younger audiences.
- Forms requiring birth date or graduation date unnecessarily.
When candidates feel respected and valued for their differences, everyone benefits. However, creating a workplace that values a diverse range of ages and backgrounds starts with your hiring process. It’s also one of the easiest ways to quickly expand your talent pool!