Why business leaders need to talk about age discrimination in the workplace

Published date: March 29, 2022

Conversations about workplace discrimination are often centred around race and gender and while these areas of diversity and inclusion are extremely important, we can often forget to address other issues of equality and inclusion such as economic background, neurodiversity, and, of course, age.

A recent survey conducted by YouGov found that 36% of over 50s felt they had been unfairly discriminated against whilst at work and another survey found that 52% of jobseekers over 50 believed their age meant they were less likely to receive offers of employment.

Let’s take a look at what age discrimination is, why age-diverse workplaces are so important and what you can do as a business leader to foster age diversity amongst your team and encourage an age-positive workplace culture.

What is age discrimination in the workplace?

Age discrimination, or ageism, is when somebody is treated unfavourably due to their age. In a workplace environment this can manifest as:

  • Direct discrimination: being passed over for promotion because you are too old
  • Indirect discrimination: for example, an employer offering training courses only to recent graduates

Employees may also face harassment based on their age. This can include comments or jokes based on a person’s age. What may be considered ‘old’ can vary depending on the industry. For instance, tech workers over 35 may find it more difficult to be hired for roles, however, in another industry these employees would not face this discrimination. 

Why is age diversity in the workplace important?

Implementing strategies to foster age-diversity in the workplace can have tangible business benefits, including:

Improved performance – Companies with a greater than 10% share of older workers experience a boost to productivity and those with teams that report members with age gaps that span 20 years are recorded as making 87% better business decisions.

Reduced employee turnover – Age-diversity fosters an environment of inclusion and morale that can reduce high turnover rates that lead to high hiring costs and leads to more highly-skilled employees staying put.

Availability of a variety of skillsets – Having a wide range of employees at your disposal from different age groups means a greater variety of skills available to your business. Older employees can also be a vital source of more traditional business skills while younger employees may have a better grasp of technology. Combining these skillsets makes for a stronger organisation.

Offers a platform for mentorship relationships – A workplace with a wide range of ages encourages employees to form relationships across generational divides and this has the potential for mentoring relationships to form that allow for skill transmission, both from older employees to younger, but also in the other direction.

6 ways to encourage an age-positive workplace culture at work

So, what can business leaders do about age discrimination and how can they foster a sense of positivity and diversity surrounding age in the workplace? Below are six tips for encouraging an age-positive workplace culture:

1. Talk about age bias

Only by bringing conscious and unconscious biases out into the open can we begin to address them. Putting bias training on the agenda can help management and employees challenge stereotypes and see the benefits of age diversity in the workplace.

2. Encourage lifelong learning

Encouraging every employee to value continuous learning and growth can develop a workforce that can take advantage of new technologies, take advantage of older workers’ skills and experience, and foster collaboration. It’s a great way to make everyone feel valued and respected and drive the business upward.

3. Support flexibility

Flexible working is high on everyone’s agenda no matter the age group and this means employers have the perfect opportunity to think outside the box when it comes to flexible working. Staggering working hours may give different groups the chance to work at a time that suits their needs and obligations best.

4. Invest in a healthy work environment

Wellbeing at work covers all aspects of an employee’s working life. A robust and well-implemented wellbeing policy should consider work-related health issues both physical and psychological as well as encouraging healthy social and financial lifestyles. By making all employees feel welcome, included, and motivated you can help retain talented employees and reduce turnover.

5. Set expectations for communication

Problems with communication and generational differences in expected workplace conduct can be a source of friction. Make sure your workplace policies around these areas are clear and easily available to all staff. When all staff know what is expected of them and why these behaviours are important, they can develop closer working relationships.

6. Mix up your teams!

Multi-generational teams can benefit from the experience and diligence of older employees as well as the creativity and enthusiasm of younger members. Diverse teams are more innovative, productive and make better decisions. Additionally, by creating a space for multi-generational relationships to form organically you can encourage the transfer of key skills and the development of successful mentoring partnerships.

How Cooper Lomaz can help you build strong, diverse teams

Building a recruitment strategy that encourages diversity can seem like a daunting prospect, particularly if this is an aspect of your hiring that you have not considered before. If you are looking for a recruitment partner that can help you build strong, diverse, and talented teams we can help.

At Cooper Lomaz, we understand that every business is different, and we can help you build a recruitment process that is tailored to you and that will ensure you find talented candidates that match your requirements as well as your culture and brand personality.

Contact us to discuss your needs or submit a brief.