Nearly one third of Australians perceived some form of age-related discrimination while employed or looking for work, starting as early as 45 years of age, with men and young people being more likely to exhibit ageism.
Among people under thirty years of age, ageist views were mostly found to be around succession, such as the idea that most older people don’t know when to make way for younger people in the workplace. There is a common misconception that if an older person stays in a role they are preventing a younger person from being able to work. Ironically, exactly the opposite is true. The more people that are employed, the more cash flows through the economy, which means the more employment opportunities there are.
One of the other major effects of ageism against older workers is that they are being managed out of the workforce and being forced into early retirement through redundancy. Preventing a sizeable portion of the Australian population from participating in the workforce may be a big mistake. Some businesses in Australia are not realising the benefits of attracting older customers. Disassociating ourselves from ageing may make us blind to the consumer opportunities that this market presents.
Three ways organisations can work to stamp out ageism: training, flexibility and performance management.
If older workers are failing to upskill, it could be that they aren’t afforded the same training opportunities as younger employees. Businesses should be ensuring that workers’ skills are relevant and continually updated, and that applies to everyone.
Flexibility is one of the rewards that comes from possessing relevant and appropriate skills and should be approached in the same way for workers both young and old. Just as younger people need flexible working programs to bring up their children, older workers need flexibility so they can undertake activities they enjoy or to care for dependents.
Performance management currently rewards employees for turning up and delivering particular commercial or strategic results. Instead, we should be supporting people who have thought through how work fits into their life and what they enjoy doing. Allowing people autonomy over their career gives them greater satisfaction in their work and leads to increased engagement.