Arlene Donovan is an executive coach, career transition and workforce development professional at www.turningpointcoaching1.com.
There are so many articles and discussions currently trending on diversity and inclusion. While I am a strong advocate for every initiative that welcomes and includes people of diverse backgrounds, educations and points of view at the table, I also believe that employers can take this approach to the next level.
Candidates 45 and older have priceless knowledge, experience and expertise that, if utilized correctly, is the secret sauce worthy of investing in. When it comes to diversity efforts, we are not focusing enough on the value older workers bring to the workforce. Ageism continues to be the albatross of qualified candidates that is a real and present factor contributing to older workers being boxed out. Yes, there have been some improvements in the unemployment rate, but not enough when millions of older workers are still looking for work.
I read an article recently by Dr. Anselm Anyoha in which he wrote candidly about getting older. He noted that as people age, it seems that society begins to "conspire to get rid of them" in order to make room for the upcoming generations.
It's a solid point, considering that exclusionary norms and tactics support the notion that younger is better, a homogeneous workforce is "right," and diversity doesn't matter. As long as these norms continue, we all lose, as it becomes us versus them.
The older population has an uncanny, ambitious drive and profound determination, but unfortunately, it often goes untapped. Many older workers are still vibrant and capable candidates wanting to return to their industry and/or careers. However, current trends in hiring practices do not support or recognize this tangible asset. According to a New York Times article by Quoctrung Bui, “older workers are finding employment in lower-skilled service jobs. They are 65% more likely to find work in child care, 93% more likely to work as cab drivers and twice as likely to find work in retail.”
I recently had the pleasure of working with a 70-year-old attorney, and I was blown away by how sharp he was. His wisdom and experience were priceless. Had I worked with a younger attorney, I would have gotten the same tangible advice, but I would have missed out on valuable knowledge and expertise.
Having a diverse and inclusive workforce proves optimal to operating success. This great nation is a melting pot overflowing with phenomenal talents across all ages and ethnicities. I believe that we, the people, can make concerted efforts toward real change in which we recognize, celebrate, collaborate and support each other’s contributions to the continuously shifting employment landscape.
Making real change requires collective efforts from employers, employees and participation from state and local government. To lead the change in the inclusion of older workers, employers can create a culture that is blind to ageism, capitalizing on the talents of older workers through an age-friendly work environment that utilizes workforce development strategies easily incorporated into hiring practices. This would result in fostering a multigenerational workplace where capitalizing on innovations in talent management leads to creative solutions to pressing business problems.
Older workers possess unique qualifiers in addition to their experience that makes them strong candidates who are very much so teachable.
Create opportunities that forge mentor-mentee relationships. Cross-train to increase retention and ensure that skills and knowledge stay within the company. Allow greater ownership and control over work-life balance tactics, such as telecommuting, job sharing and shift-swapping.
Around the world, cultures respect, appreciate and glean from the wisdom possessed by older generations. It almost seems as if our society is putting workers 45 years of age and older out to pasture, viewing them as not valuable. I say shame on us for turning our noses up at this wealth of top talent. Diversity and inclusion is about all people getting an opportunity to demonstrate their strengths, gifts and talents. Everyone deserves a chance, and older job seekers must be included.
As employers embark on new budget and growth opportunities during the second half of 2018, the challenge still remains — can you commit to hiring employees over the age of 45? I welcome the opportunity to discuss any questions you might have.