As Gen X-ers approach their mid-50's, age discrimination or ageism is becoming more widely recognized as a problem. Congress hopes to tackle this challenge with two pieces of legislation that have been introduced and are now awaiting Senate review. The EEOC already forbids workplace age discrimination against those 40 and older but the new bills may also allow victims to file claims against employers and alleviates the burden of proof with those claims.
Employers can proactively become aware and address age discrimination in the workplace. Here's how.
Include Age in Inclusion Hiring Efforts
As we've elaborated in previous posts, inclusion efforts begin with identifying the hiring gaps and areas that may be discriminatory. Just as you'd evaluate your job descriptions, website, interview questions and the biases of your hiring managers for limiting or gendered language or graphics, age must be included in these efforts. Multigenerational hiring managers equipped with a hiring decision matrix, including an interview scorecard, can be helpful to remove some of the biases.
Review Current Workplace Culture and Policies
When reviewing workplace policies for anti-discrimination and equal employment, age-specific language should be included. Employee demographics must document age as well as other diverse groups so that there's a clearer understanding of the general lack of age ranges within the organization. This information can then be used to further the hiring efforts or evaluate what's turning away older candidates. Workplace culture and teams must also be assessed to remove stereotypical assumptions made about older workers.
Offer Training and Development
Instead of assuming that only younger, entry-level employees might need career advancement assistance or development, offer these services to all employees, regardless of age. Older workers, even retired workers, are returning to the workforce. Employers can consider this yet another untapped pool of potential in an otherwise tight job market. These candidates are in for another round - they're willing to learn and do the work. It's time to value adaptability and ability over age.
Understand Background Checks in a Multigenerational Workforce
While creating a diverse workplace culture that values all, regardless of gender, race, religion, color or age, it's important to recognize that their background checks may look different. The candidate's age and experience may be defined by their generation and the state of the job market as they entered the workforce. There may be entrepreneurial experience, resume gaps, long spans of time at a single employer or short spans at several employers. Hiring managers must drop the assumptions that come with the screening report results. The right candidates are willing to answer fair questions of a curious hiring manager that is open to truly listening. Employers must be open to fostering a culture of acceptance, on many levels. And it all starts with creatively recruiting and hiring from a more diverse candidate pool.