The golden age is before us, not behind us: ageism against jobseekers

March 10, 2022

It’s not just the young who face barriers into the workforce: why employers are concerned about hiring older jobseekers, and how we might alleviate this stigma.

In 2014, McKinsey founded a non-profit organisation called Generation to help young people overcome obstacles to employment. But just last year, in 2021, it published a report titled Meeting the World’s Midcareer Moment. In its efforts to prove value is not defined by age, it uncovered, and consequently expanded its services to tackle, an older problem, newly coming to light: the difficulties faced by jobseekers aged 45-60+. Ageism is real, multigenerational and multinational.

So-called ‘Generation X’ workers and those older, tend to remain ‘unemployed for much longer than the median, and their age is indeed one of the greatest barriers to their finding a job’. It’s worth noting that when we intersect age with other areas of under-representation (race, sexuality etc), the hurdles are even higher. Yet this same report did not neglect to survey employers on the subject, from which they collated the three most prevalent concerns employers have, when considering jobseekers over 45:

  1. Reluctance to try new technologies
  2. Inability to learn new skills
  3. Difficulty working with co-workers of a different generation

And with that, we’re presented with the opportunity to break down these barriers. To the first point, it seems that many older people are anything but tech-averse! The prevailing trend is that people of all ages will use technology that helps them, so perhaps one solution would simply be to target all demographics with reassurance that a more automated, digitised world is not necessarily concerning.

As for the inability to learn new skills, well I’m sure we can all agree we’ve found the prospect of having to learn something new from scratch a little daunting! But support here is key. Talent rarely fades, and with the right up-to-date training programmes, there should be little in the way of catering to all generations, preparing them for evolving workplaces. Demonstrate the importance of something new, and people will be more willing to put in the time to retrain.

And the final employers’ bias, that older jobseekers find it difficult to work with other generations, has been neatly debunked by Age Platform Europe, which found that ‘mixed-age teams in the workplace have been associated with better performance and creativity’.

So in with all ages, out with ageism! The problem appears to lie not with adaptation, talent or integration, but with stigma. Devote time and attention to nurturing talent from multigenerational workforces, and supporting multigenerational jobseekers, all of whom have something to offer, and the ability to deliver.

Author: James Scott