Maybe it’s my age, maybe familiarity breeds bias, but I can’t help thinking that my colleagues in the older age bracket simply don’t fit a lot of the negative stereotypes around older workers.
Looking around the office today, I see them as some of the most emotionally intelligent employees in the business. They are well motivated towards achieving goals, are lively, intuitive, influential, resilient, keen to learn, fun to work with and they embrace change. So what’s the problem?
This week’s special issue on age attempts to get to the bottom of one of the biggest challenges facing the UK workforce.
Our view is that smart employers won’t wait for the demographic time-bomb to explode – they will be taking action now to encourage older people to stay in the market longer, and they will work much harder to remove negative attitudes. Those struggling to respond could end up making knee-jerk decisions and will undoubtedly be exposed to legal risks.
Personnel Today’s HR survey on age (see page 1 and right) finds readers contradicting themselves and making some terrible admissions. An overwhelming number of you have been brutally frank about your organisation not wanting to employ the over-65s. Almost all HR respondents see age discrimination as widespread, and nearly 70 per cent of you have come clean about not being adequately prepared for the repercussions of an ageing workforce.
Yet the business case for age diversity is well understood. Readers recognise that older workers are more efficient and are absent far less than their younger counterparts. Some 99 per cent of HR respondents believe the over-50s are capable of adding value. So why the inertia?
Age equality is no longer just political correctness – it’s an opportunity waiting to be seized. At least 10 major employers have made this sound investment already with policies and practice designed to tap in to the experience and knowledge of older workers. Find out more, starting on page 27.
Ageist attitudes can be changed, but it requires significant commitment if we are to reverse the current culture of early retirement and voluntary redundancy. Those employers offering flexibility, investing in people development and creating engaging environments for older workers will gain the competitive advantage in the long run. If you want to be one of these success stories, look inside this issue for inspiration.