Discrimination comes in many forms. Our focus on discrimination is often geared to sexual orientation and race but there is a tiger in the house that is growing by the day – age discrimination.
Younger people have often felt discriminated against when they aren’t hired because of lack of experience. Recent graduates, diplomas in hand, are book schooled but often lack on the job training needed by companies moving fast to meet quotas. Unless they have made an effort to seek summer internships that bolster their resumes reflecting skills and talents learned, the job pursuit can be disappointing.
The spectrum of disheartening searches runs wide and its effects are being felt deeply these days at the other end by older workers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are currently 40 million Americans, age 50 and older, who are working. More than half are facing layoffs or forced retirement.
Many in this group had children in their mid-thirties or later, now in college. Most will live a lot longer than the generations before them but may not be prepared financially to exist without income from employment. Technology is changing fast and constant education is imperative to stay relevant, on top of all the daily requisites of current workloads.
Every generation has something special to offer but other generations, before and after, often criticize. Afterall, in their eyes, theirs had the most notable achievements. Sadly, massive amounts of people are collectively identified by the traits of a particular generation rather than what they individually bring to the table.
The Boomers are known for extravagance, Gen Xrs are plodders, Millennials are self-absorbed, Gen Z – the jury is still out. I find it odd that we will stand up in righteous indignation when someone makes a racial or gender slur lumping an entire class of people together and follow it minutes later with commentary about generational traits.
As Oprah would say, the one thing I know for sure is that there is no substitute for wisdom. It takes years, a lot of bumps and bruises and attendance at the school of hard knocks to gain wisdom. It isn’t something you learn in school or in a certification program. It comes from life experiences with people, outcomes, successes and failures. There is simply no substitute for experience.
With wisdom, we gain confidence. Note, I didn’t say arrogance. We have all met the arrogant “know it all” who tells everyone about their acumen but rarely just shows it with quiet assurance. It rarely sits well with anyone. Confidence is not owned by one person, we are stronger as a team when each of us stands in our own certainty in what we bring to the table, unthreatened and valued.
Older workers have much to share but are feeling shaky and dispensable in a world that needs their historical knowledge badly. We have all heard horror stories about layoffs conditioned on age, not experience or performance, leading to bitterness and a backlash from a community of well-connected executives. Further, the younger generations have witnessed how those ahead of them have been treated and many have come to the conclusion that loyalty doesn’t pay.
This discrimination via software filters or forced retirement packages because of age needs a strong lens attached to it. Its bad business on so many levels particularly in a world where stakeholder impact (which includes your talent pool) has now leapfrogged over shareholder return as the driver of leading businesses.
What kind of employer branding do you want to exhibit? Do you lead a company that doesn’t care about expensive churn rates, hacking your way through your business in short jagged sprints with no foresight about the costly talent gap you may be facing or do you have a long term strategy for recruiting and retaining the top talent in your industry?
We will all pay for these workers one way or the other. At the office or though your personal tax dollars as they increase to create programs for older generations to subsist. Personally, it makes more sense to me to tap into this wealth of knowledge, stay away from age discrimination and create long term opportunities with mutual value exchange. Just saying...
Copyright © 2019
All rights reserved – Linda Lattimore