06 Mar Inclusion and Diversity: Ageism in the Workplace
The topics of inclusion and diversity have received a lot of attention, but an area that often is overlooked is ageism. Ageism can affect workers on both ends of the spectrum: young and old. Specifically, areas of knowledge and learning affect both groups.
Knowledge and Learning
For younger workers, the learning curve includes learning industry jargon, processes and procedures. Older workers may be more familiar with those things — that is, until they change.
In both cases, the result can be the same: feelings of inadequacy and lost opportunity for the worker as well as loss of great talent for the company.
Solutions to Age Bias
So what can be done? The solution lies in recognizing that age bias, especially unconscious age bias, exists and then implementing processes and procedures to counteract this bias. Following are some tangible steps you can take:
- Recruiting. Most companies today use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to track resumes through the hiring process. In addition to relevant skills and experience, the data that are collected often contain demographic information such as age — not directly perhaps, but through information like job history or year of graduation. As candidates move through the various phases of the hiring process, human resources should remove this kind of identifying data and include only specific job-related information.
- Including ageism in diversity training. Many inclusion and diversity programs stress race and gender. But today’s workforce spans several generations that also can give rise to bias. Adding ageism to the diversity and inclusion curriculum brings the issue to the forefront. At the very least, it will demonstrate to your staff that avoiding ageism is an important issue for your company.
- Encouraging a mentoring culture that embraces diversity and inclusion. Mentoring is important to collaborative work environments. Most people who have mentors are mentored by someone at a higher level than they are at. As the two form a relationship, they learn to trust each other and respect and learn from each other’s best qualities. This, in turn, creates a positive work environment that respects all team members, regardless of age, race or gender.
- Recognizing that every generation offers something valuable. Each generation contributes to the company’s well-being, and each benefits from the others’ attributes whether or not they realize it. Be sure that the company’s leaders visibly support that idea in different ways. For example, ensure that the level of training is equal for all managers whatever their age. When someone is being promoted, don’t automatically promote the person who has worked there the longest; instead, ensure that ability and potential is part of the criteria used in the decision-making process.