12 To-Dos To Assess And Address Workplace Ageism (And Other Isms)

In an online survey of 800 hiring managers, 38% admitted to viewing resumes with age bias. One can only imagine what that percentage would be if everyone openly admitted discriminatory actions. While age bias, stereotypes and discrimination most often impact older applicants, ageist attitudes also hurt younger employees.

Hiring managers cited typical age stereotypes for automatically dismissing employees under age 25.

  • They’re unreliable.
  • They’ll just leave.
  • They don’t have any/enough experience.

Tiresome rhetoric was also cited for dismissing older candidates.

  • Older workers lack experience with technology.
  • They’ll probably retire soon.
  • They’re too set in their ways.

Surveys like this help to raise awareness, but more is needed to create workplace change. Shaping a diverse, age-inclusive workplace requires employer action.

First and foremost is educating employees on the many ways age bias, stereotyping and discrimination show up in the workplace. Then it’s time to devise a strategic action plan to eliminate ageism–and all the other isms standing in the way of a cohesive and productive workplace culture.

12 Steps To Take Now to Eliminate Ageism (and other isms)

Here are 12 actions that companies should take to avoid age-related issues and ensure workplace age equity. The good news about these suggestions is that they can provide insights into other systemic forms of bias and discrimination.

  1. Include age in bias training and mandate training for all employees. Make training a prerequisite before assuming a role encompassing hiring and management responsibilities. With appropriate training, hiring managers will consciously cast a wider net for attracting and hiring talent. Moreover, inclusive talent management increases employee retention.
  2. Proactively create a diverse, age-inclusive work culture beginning with employee orientation and onboarding. Use that critical time to educate new employees on workplace policies, train them on all aspects of inclusive behaviors and set expectations for a zero-tolerance to any form of bias, stereotyping or discrimination.
  3. Understand what contributes to employee belonging and address behaviors that create exclusion and disengagement. For example, generational labels, i.e., Boomer, GenX, Millennial and GenZ, represent stereotypes. This trivial assignment of characteristics is misleading and can lead to generation-bashing and finger-pointing, creating mistrust, disengagement and talent loss. Current culture has been duped into thinking these labels have real meaning.
  4. Conduct a complete age equity audit reviewing internal and external policies, processes and messaging. Is age included in the company’s anti-discrimination and harassment policy? Does your diversity recruiting strategy include age as a dimension of diversity? Does your Equal Employment statement include age?
  5. Report age demographics and don’t lump older employees into a 40+ category. There are a lot of working years after 40. Make space for all-aged employees. Be transparent and include the results in annual reporting along with gender and race and ethnicity. Prospective employees, customers and stakeholders across that age spectrum will thank you (and respect you more). Plus, you’ll be miles ahead if the EEOC mandates reporting by age group.
  6. Review your external website for image and language inequities. Does imaging include the diversity of race, gender, family structure, ability and age? If the faces are diverse but all under 30, what message does that send potential talent? Your customers? Your stakeholders? Current employees?
  7. Conduct anonymous employee surveys to measure employee beliefs about inclusion in your workplace. Cultural change requires awareness building. You can’t root out age-based threats or any other bias without giving employees a safe way to report exclusive behavior. Most importantly, use the survey results to craft strategies to address gaps and strengthen the culture. Retention is key. Still trying to figure out why you are losing talent? Companies experiencing increased loss of talent need to root out the causes. That means asking employees to reveal the blindspots and ask for input on how best to move forward.
  8. Actively create and measure the innovation and productivity of age-equitable teams. The Global Report on Ageism reports that one of the most effective ways to change perceptions and behavior of age differences is by assembling teams across a wide-ranging age spectrum. Mixed-age interaction reduces prejudice and stereotypes toward both younger and older populations.
  9. Sponsor an Age Equity employee resource group to provide a safe place to discuss age-related beliefs, question the validity and create opportunities to disrupt the bias through mutual mentoring and teamwork. Partner with leaders in the organization who can investigate and address these concerns. Is there a pattern of passing up older workers for promotions? Are younger employees dismissed for challenging development assignments or given an unfair share of tedious work?
  10. It’s a given that leaders should lead by example, and age equity is no exception. But even leaders don’t know what they don’t know. It’s up to HR and DEI professionals to make sure they understand the urgency of demographic shifts and how that impacts the employee base and product or service demands.
  11. Metrics matter. No measures, no results. Set achievable and stretch goals around creating a diverse, age-equitable work culture. When reporting age, refer to specific age ranges or default to 10-year brackets.
  12. Is HR too overloaded to take on one more thing? Move workplace strategy under the Chief Strategy Officer or, better yet, create a Chief Longevity Officer. People are living longer, and a longevity mindset can increase the recruitment and retention of all-aged employees. A longevity mindset offers a new approach to employee attraction, development and retention. It also takes a longer view of the benefits needed to support an aging employee base, including financial planning, continual training, retaining and education and ongoing health and wellness in mind, body and spirit.

A Workforce of the Future

Keeping people strategies top of mind in an ever-changing workplace helps ensure business success. Understanding key workplace demographics is integral to the process because they help determine how scarce or plentiful workers are. It seems obvious, but how many leaders understand that the largest talent pool can be found in ages 65 and older?

Preparing for a workplace of the future requires action today. What is your company doing?

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/sheilacallaham/2023/01/29/12-to-dos-to-assess-and-address-workplace-ageism-and-other-isms/