There are plenty of areas where our attitudes are twenty years behind where they should be – and none more so than age in the workplace.
Many of our attitudes about employment and retirement date back to times when life expectancy was much lower and so were levels of health into a person’s 60s and 70s.
There are quite a lot of stats pointing towards a systematic bias against people over 50 in the hiring process (for instance see the Policy Exchange: http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/publications/too%20much%20to%20lose.pdf)
There are plenty of reasons organisations can slip into this practice – but many of those just don’t stand up to scrutiny – health, ability to cope with technology, adaptability, ability to pick up the job, set in their ways, etc.
Aside from the often flouted laws on age discrimination, which if you are making decisions on inherently incorrect assumptions rather than valid objective criteria, you are probably in breach of too, there are many reasons to relook at your practices in this area.
Experience: Employing older members in your workforce can bring a wealth of experience to your organisation – some things can only be picked up from seeing them first hand not in the class room.
Adaptability: Far from being set in their ways, chances are many over 50s will have had to adapt plenty of times and are perfectly capable of doing so again. My mother in Law in Lima, Doris has just started her Engineering degree in her 60s (and contributes vast life experience to her class).
Interpersonal skills: Want highly developed interpersonal skills – you may actually find these far more finely honed in someone with an extra 30 years’ practice.
Reliability: No need to assume your 50+ hires will be any less reliable younger hires – they may just have a more robust work ethic and a few less hangovers too!
Your own target market: It’s amazing how many businesses selling to over 40s (who let’s face it can be a pretty lucrative market) send out an entirely under 40 sales, marketing and support team. You may be missing one massive opportunity to identify more closely with your users.
Physical ability: how often is this really necessary – and is there really a problem? I completed my 3rd Ironman at 50 (on a day several hundred younger competitors quit).
So why not revisit your hiring practices today and check they are fit for purpose, legally, ethically and from a business sense angle too. And if you are already there – great – I guess you are seeing the benefits – spread the message.