Battle of the Ages: Ageism in the Workforce

Ages

Workplaces today are acutely aware of important issues surrounding the gender pay gap, but what about the battle of the ages?

Young vs. old, tech-know-how vs. life-experience – is there room for both? Who is front and centre of this age-old war (pun intended), and is there an opportunity for individuals of all ages to have a fair go?

It is not uncommon for today’s youth to be considered just that – young and inexperienced. They have, after all, been in the world for a shorter timeframe, however, does this mean they should be written off quickly when entering the workforce?

Those coming straight out of secondary or tertiary level education are often assumed to be not equipped with the right skills for the job, and are perceived as indecisive, often looking to move on to the next big thing (affectionately referred to as “job hoppers”).

More recently, attitudes towards millennials have given this form of ageism new fuel, with the younger generation being deemed as lazy, unpredictable, unprofessional and unfocused. Surely smartphones are considered an added body part by now, right?

Technology certainly plays an integral part of how the younger generation are seen in the workplace. On one hand, technology can be a distraction, though it is a tool that the youth of society are supremely comfortable with, and in a growing digital age is a vital skillset that older employees may lack. In recruitment, the use of LinkedIn and Seek have become intertwined with the industry.

So how can younger employees use this advantage wisely whilst still proving themselves worthy in other areas?

The key, I believe, is demonstrating a motivation to succeed combined with a genuine interest in the job or company. I suggest young employees to continually develop their skills and not be afraid to take on the less attractive tasks.

But what about employees at the other end of the spectrum, where ageism is just as prevalent, if not more so?

Older employees are also just as likely to be labelled out, due to being viewed as less adaptable to new technology. Despite their long work commitment and history, if a mature candidate cannot wrap their head around modern processes, they may be perceived less favourably by a business. Thus, many mature candidates often find themselves taking pay cuts simply to remain competitive.

Another trend I have noticed is the more mature candidates being viewed as “overqualified”.

So, what does society value more – technological know-how or life experience?

Both are extremely valuable in the workforce; however, important factors to consider include the industry type and specific role requirements.

Traditional roles are likely to have a larger technological component that will continue to increase over time. Recruitment professionals, for instance, that fail to harness the power of online tools may miss out on attracting star candidates.

From an employer’s perspective, employers should do what they can to prevent age-related discrimination as it may result in the exclusion of talented individuals from the workplace.

Instead employers should look to their internal training practices as a way of developing strong individuals in areas they may need help with, regardless of their age.


About the author

Sophia Papas is the Recruitment Administrator with Kingfisher Recruitment, a national recruiter specialising in the Built Environment, with offices in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.