There’s a lot of talk about gender bias, racial bias, and culture bias at work, and each are important for many reasons. But perhaps one of the biggest and most problematic types of bias we face is the bias of age: we often evaluate people based on their age, and this is now becoming a major challenge in the workplace.
To truly overcome age discrimination, and the damage it could bring to our global economy, companies need to take action. Here's 7 actions your business can take to overcome age discrimination.
1. Give older people titles and roles that let them contribute their expertise.
You can do this without necessarily offering higher and higher pay (to prevent replacing them with “cheaper” young people).
2. Look at pay equity by job and level, not tenure.
Tenure is not a useful measure for pay, unless it directly translates into experience and skills that drive value to the company. It’s more than OK for an older person to make less money than a younger person if they’re new to the job. In fact, it’s fair.
3. Bring age diversity into your DEI programs.
A recent study from Deloitte showed that age-diverse teams feel more psychological safety and innovative than teams which are age-biased. Age brings a sense of security and wisdom to teams, so use it to your advantage.
4. Give older workers managerial roles, supervisor roles, and mentor roles.
These positions will let them leverage their years of expertise or tenure. Everyone reaches their “Peter Principle” level eventually, but that doesn’t mean they can’t grow without going “up” the pyramid.
5. Recruit older people.
Invite them back to work from retirement, and tell stories of older people succeeding at your company. Companies like Boeing, Bank of America, Walgreens, GM, and others now invite older workers to come back, through specific programs tailored to the aging. They are branded “returnships.”
6. Coach and teach your hiring managers not to discriminate by age.
This includes tackling implicit biases, which is an illegal practice. When older workers find out they are excluded for non-specific reasons, they can and will sue your company.
7. Teach younger leaders about reverse mentoring.
Show them how they can help older people and understand how to manage older workers, who have biases of their own.
Generational diversity has great potential. People from different generations can grow and learn from one another as they are exposed to one another's ideas and experiences. The new perspectives they gain can spark new ideas and prompt new ways of working.