#WorkTrends: Ageism and Its Impact on the Modern Worker

Good news for employees, but kind of concerning for employers. In the coming months, the Supreme Court could make it easier for federal employees to prove that they were discriminated against on the basis of age. I saw some fascinating research in Forbes recently that shows ageism starts as early as the age of forty-two. Forty-two?

We deal with isms today in the workplace, but we don’t tend to focus enough on ageism. Not only that, I think a lot of us don’t even know exactly what it is. Here’s what it is, a brutal truth, as our guest, Vinay Singh, says in his new book, “Your Future in Pieces. The Brutal Truth: How Ageism and Inequality are Destroying America.”

I’m delighted to have Vinay as our guest today, he’s not only an expert on ageism, but he’s also experienced it firsthand, and alarmingly, says, “Today’s workers feel the brunt of it younger than ever.” So let’s get into the realities of ageism and how we can undo this vexing problem, remove the bias, and hopefully protect our employees. The shelf life of a robot is one thing, but the shelf life of a human is an entirely different topic.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you never miss an episode. 

[00:32] America is at a crossroads.
[06:42] Do you think ageism is on the rise because there’s a divide between the tech-savvy and the tech-nervous?
[07:43] Everybody is constantly using technology.
[09:14] It’s a huge impact.

It’s illegal to discriminate against people based on their age.

Most of us understand that it’s against the law to discriminate against someone based on the number of years they’ve spent on this planet, but as my guest tells us, “Here’s the brutal truth: ageism exists and we’re all feeling its impact earlier than ever. Essentially it’s one of those isms we just aren’t talking about enough.”

Vinay Singh is a human capital and workforce development strategist and advocacy professional, and author of a new book, “Your Future in Pieces. The Brutal Truth: How Ageism and Inequality are Destroying America.” His passion comes from both his professional life and personal experience. And he’s got a lot to tell us.

America is at a crossroads today

“We’ve got four generations in the workforce and too many employers and executives who are buying into false beliefs and biases.” The data around age discrimination is alarming. Research published by Hiscox shows that 21% of US workers age forty and older have experienced discrimination in the workplace due to their age, and respondents stated they believe they’re most likely to experience it at age fifty-one. Moreover, workers over the age of forty are perceived by their younger counterparts to be resistant to change and learning new skills, difficult to manage, and don’t understand technology.

Is Ageism on the Rise Because Older People Have an Aversion to Tech?

Is there a real divide between the tech-savvy and tech-nervous? Not so, according to Singh.” “We’re all technical. We all know how to use smartphones. Grandparents know how to use technology just like young people do.”

The impact of age discrimination on the economy

The impact on the economy is vast. According to Hiscox, ageism is creating a range of hazards for employers, including discrimination lawsuits, demotivated employees, and the lost opportunity costs associated with devaluing older workers. All of this hurts the bottom line, which, in turn, hurts the economy.

A new career forged from personal experience

In my conversation with Singh, he dove into his own experience with age discrimination, which started when he was about forty-three and working in a recruiting agency. It continued when he was looking for a new position and was told repeatedly that he was overqualified. Suffice to say this is happening to thousands of others, according to Singh. The next step, naturally, was to write a book.

How to retool and reinvent yourself after age discrimination

It’s not like age discrimination is going to stop overnight. We clearly have a long way to go. So what does someone who has experienced ageism do? Singh emphasizes the value of focusing on your LinkedIn profile. “That’s the business social media. That’s where employers are going to first and foremost to hire you,” he says. “Maybe HR looks at the other things, the other social media later on, but they are looking at your LinkedIn profile.”

He also recommends using the right industry buzzwords, keywords that convey your skills, creating an obvious digital presence, a professional photo for your avatar, and a compelling image for your banner. Why the banner image? It helps draw attention to your profile and shows you’re paying attention. Singh also recommends creating a vanity URL that’s catchy and tells people what you do. His is Vinay People Strategist, by the way.

One more tip from this veteran: stay in school, get those certifications, be as multi-disciplined as possible, and try to stay cutting edge. “And always be thinking this way, “ he said. “because if you’re not, your competition is.”

Well worth a listen, no matter what your age.

Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
Vinay Singh on Linkedin and Twitter
Vinay Singh’s new book: “Your Future in Pieces. The Brutal Truth: How Ageism and Inequality are Destroying America.
How to reach Vinay Singh: Vinay12 at opt online dot net.

Photo by Rajshri Bharath KS on Unsplash

Midlife Employees – The Gold Standard of Employment

Ageism is a real thing. Many employers find the younger, fresh-out-of-school and up-to-date employees more attractive than those who have been in the workforce for decades. Hiring managers tend to assume that older candidates will be less creative, less productive, not as sharp mentally, and more expensive to employ than their younger counterparts—but these stereotypes are rarely backed by data. And despite age discrimination being illegal when it comes to employment, 64 percent of older job seekers say they have seen or experienced it, according to the AARP.

If you aren’t seriously considering applicants over the age of 40, not only can you be potentially opening your company up to a lawsuit, but—more importantly—you may be missing out on workers that represent the “gold standard” of employment.

Why the Future of the Workforce Is 40 and Older

Companies that actively recruit those in the 40+ demographic reap many benefits. Here are just a few that need to be pointed out:

They bring a treasure trove of experience. Midlife employees “can bring deep knowledge to the table, as well as well-honed interpersonal skills, better judgment than the less experienced and a more balanced perspective,” writes Ashton Apple white in the New York Times. Over the years, they have amassed a treasure trove of workplace wisdom, as well as important soft skills like knowing how to get along with colleagues, problem-solve at work, and manage office politics. Career shifters, in particular, can bring a wide-ranging knowledge base and the eagerness to learn new skills.

You’ll gain incredibly loyal employees. Older workers are reliable, handle stress well, and are the most engaged of all workers when offered an opportunity to grow their professional skills, according to research conducted by Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the Wharton School of Business and co-author of “Managing the Older Worker.”

You can easily strike “gold” with women re-entering the workforce. Women over 40 who have been out of the workforce while they raised their now-teenage children can bring your company incredible talents—and they likely won’t be asking for maternity leave or blocks of time off to cover school vacations. “The rush to fill lunch boxes, beat the school bell, and make the afternoon circuit of games, dance lessons, and tutors is over,” writes Diane Kilgore, suggesting some of the benefits that mid-life professionals bring to the table. “Seasoned workers aren’t struggling with the home/work/life balance thing anymore,” she says, adding that “calm, older workers have the time and ability to focus on a job and do it well.” These workers are actually a “gold standard of employment.”

Maximize Mid-life Employee Performance via Mentorship

For career shifters, as well as women re-entering the workforce, offering mentorship opportunities is key to maximizing the productivity of workers surpassing 40. That’s because an effective mentorship program demonstrates to your employees that you value them and support their professional and personal growth.

An added plus—these efforts increase retention rates. “Mentoring is one of the best methods to confirm that your employees feel supported by your organization,” says Valerie Martinelli, an HR and management consultant.

Diversity in the workplace doesn’t just mean racial diversity but also gender and age diversity. The expertise older workers bring to the office complements recent graduates’ academic knowledge, and those benefits more than outweigh the challenges that may possibly come with a diverse workforce.

So, the next time a resume crosses your desk and the college graduation date gives you pause, think about the many benefits an experienced “40+” employee can contribute to the workforce. Not only will they bring skills gained from decades of employment, but they can also provide reliability and balance that your team might currently be lacking.

This article was first published on Huffington Post.