Most recruiters understand the importance of diverse talent pools. But what many recruiters miss is that diversity extends beyond race and gender to include age. Fair hiring practices across the age spectrum create a dedicated, loyal talent base.
Creating age-equity in recruiting is more about what not to do, such as putting experience requirements and limitations in the job ad. Why ask for ten years of experience if a younger applicant has successfully performed the work for three? And why limit experience at ten years when an interested candidate has 15 or 20?
This practice dissuades candidates from applying. More concerning is that it could be considered age discrimination and land your company or your client in the courtroom.
And don’t fall into false assumptions such as older workers are not tech-savvy, or they are not salary negotiable. Bunk. All of it.
Hiring managers have a responsibility to protect their company from potential bias and discrimination for all protected categories — and that includes age. As a result, hiring managers should clearly indicate to the recruiter that a diverse candidate pool includes qualified talent across the age spectrum.
If you think intergenerational teams are difficult to manage, you’ve been suckered into the myth. Leah Georges, Ph.D., and assistant professor and researcher at Creighton University says that across the generations, what we want in the workplace is more similar than different. Her TEDx presentation, “How Generational Stereotypes Hold Us Back at Work” has more than 2.2 million views.
“All employees want work that matters, they want flexibility, they want support, they want appreciation, and they want better coffee. But none of these things are tied to a generation.”
Cloverpop, a company focused on transforming leadership performance, business innovation and employee engagement, shares research on the value of teams that include age, gender and geographic diversity. Their research indicates diverse teams make better business decisions 87 percent of the time, drive decision-making two-times faster with half the meetings and improve decision team results by 60 percent.
The result? Better overall performance and a decisive competitive advantage.
Age Equity Is a Mindset
While age inequities are sometimes unintentional, they are commonplace and easily overlooked. With college graduates unable to land a job in a post-COVID workscape, combined with a large percentage of older workers who want and need employment, it’s critical to adopt an age equity mindset and hire across the age spectrum.
While the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) does not protect workers under the age of 40, companies focused on equity across the board will be wise to set policies and practices that include all ages.
Building Age Equity Into the Workplace
Change begins with ensuring age-inclusive practices, such as the five listed here.
- Ask Questions, Develop Solutions: Employee surveys and culture audits can provide this insight, but it’s only valuable when a) questions address perspectives around age and aging; and, b) the findings are acted upon through strategic intervention with sound measures in place to ensure progress.
- Ensure Diversity and Inclusion Strategy is Inclusive: If age is not a characteristic of diversity being measured in your organization, your D&I strategy excludes a protected category and the single largest talent distribution. When other forms of diversity training are already mandatory for a workplace, then age should be included.
- Communication is Key: It’s easy for ageist language to creep into workplace culture and for the face of a company to be more youth-focused than age-inclusive. Eliminate negative stereotyping and create age-inclusion through communication strategies that review internal and external messaging with an age-neutral lens.
- Be Intentional: The way career and development opportunities are assigned and communicated, and shifting the organizational mindset to one of flexibility and adaptability for all ages is key. Adopting and employing a formal approach to managing and retaining a multigenerational workforce by auditing internal processes and structuring opportunities to connect younger and older employees – such as mutual mentoring – can lead to extraordinary outcomes.
- Experiment and Reward: Enhance teamwork and innovation by creating age-diverse teams and giving them a company problem to solve. Reward the teams that show the best team effort and outcome.
A longer version of this story first appeared in Forbes on May 26, 2020.