Age Bias – Corporate America is Missing Out
Posted by Ken McGovern in Culture, Executive Search, Team Development | 0 comments
The Great Resignation, the Covid-19 employee exodus, and the explosion of the Gig Economy have left many HR hiring teams mentally and physically exhausted. For some companies and industries they’ve hit a crisis point and are being forced to shift the way that they do business and that includes who and how their hire.
Boomers are being overlooked
More and more people are working into their 70s and beyond – some by choice, others out of financial need. Yet despite the staffing shortages, many companies continue to have a bias against anyone over 60 when it comes to hiring. In fact, I see the bias toward people in their 50s!
Some of the bias is financial. Healthcare costs continue to rise, and it’s far more expensive to insure a 60-year-old than it is a 30-year-old. But the bias goes beyond the almighty dollar.
There is a perception that the Boomer generation isn’t tech savvy, is unwilling to change or adapt to new processes and can easily be replaced by a younger worker who will be a part of the team for decades not years. Here’s a news flash, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, The median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.1 years in January 2022. People aren’t staying for decades – regardless of age, yet I can’t tell you how often I get this concern from hiring leaders “She (He) is 60 – they just want to ride it out until they retire in 5 years, and we will be back to square one in the hiring process.”
What can we gain from “older workers”? A lot!
The Harvard Business Review shared, “For most people, raw mental horsepower declines after the age of 30, but knowledge and expertise – the main predictors of job performance – keep increasing even beyond the age of 80…When it comes to learning new things, there is no age limit and the more intellectually engaged people remain when they are older, the more they will contribute to the labor market.”
Diversifying your workforce by employing highly experienced and “retirement aged” individuals make sense – not only because of the labor shortage but because this sector of talent adds significant value to teams.
It’s all about mentorship, insight and experience.
We have glorified youth in business. Although a 30-year-old Harvard valedictorian may be brilliant, he or she simply does not have the world experience someone in their 60s or 70s possesses. The incredible value that a senior employee brings to a team is priceless. Every highly successful business owner, senior management executive and/or team leader I know didn’t get their alone – they’ve had mentors along the way, and many still rely on their mentors for guidance and insight. Corporate America is missing out by excluding perhaps the richest labor source we have, but I feel the tides are shifting against age bias.
I’m a firm believer that companies – like people – need to hit a rock bottom moment (or close to it) before they move outside their comfort zone to unchartered waters. The current situation in the labor market may be just that when it comes to age bias. It’s time companies shift the script and rethink their perception on age longevity. We are living longer and working longer – people of every age are motivated to expand their career options. If you create a culture of true inclusion that embraces older employees – you may just find your company evolves to be more innovative and earn the coveted title of “Best Place to Work in 2023”.
Of course, I may be biased, as I’m 64 and retirement is not on my radar in the near future. I’m just getting started!