#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

#WorkTrends: How to Make Your Organization Accessible for Everyone

If you want to keep your company away from the wrong side of a lawsuit, you need to work on creating both an application process and a workplace that are truly accessible. In news from the world of HR: DISH Network just settled a lawsuit for $1.25M regarding an inaccessible online job application process. The company will have to work to make its application process much more accessible. One of the key lessons in this lawsuit is that the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) isn’t just for employees. It’s for applicants as well.

So I’m thrilled we have a terrific guest on #WorkTrends this week, Neil Milliken, to speak about how to make your organization accessible for everyone. Neil is the global head of accessibility at Atos and the cofounder of AXSChat, an online platform focused on disability, inclusion, and accessibility.

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

[00:32] Accessibility is something a lot of us in HR are thinking about
[05:54] Actually, disability is not a dirty word.
[13:01] Providing assistive technologies benefits the entire organization
[16:32] Two sides to the future of work: The human side and the technology side.

What does it truly mean to have an accessible workplace?

We talk a lot about diversity and inclusion lately, but we don’t talk enough about one key area, which is accessibility. What does it truly mean to have an accessible workplace? It means a lot more than physical changes like a wheelchair ramp or having a sign language interpreter on hand, though both of these are certainly important. It’s more a total approach to ensuring that everyone is included in the candidate and the employee journey — whatever their state of disability. It has to do with anyone you interact with, actually, from customers or visitors to colleagues to new hires. And as the DISH settlement makes clear, this is of legal as well as ethical importance.

Disability is Not a Dirty Word.

Neil Milliken has some terrific strategies to pay attention to, and first off that means changing our entire attitude towards the nature of disability. He’s experienced it firsthand. He describes himself as dyslexic and talks about how technology has transformed his life, enabling him to do things he hadn’t been able to do before, making his life easier and sparking a lifelong passion for sharing that passion with others. And as he says, “disability is not a dirty word.”

Talk to most people who experience life with a disability, he reminds us, and they’re happy to talk about their disability. But here’s a good practice: always ask the person, “How do you wish to be addressed, and tell me about whether you need help and, if so, how you want me to help you?” Milliken believes it best to ask upfront, be open, be friendly, and treat people as people.

We’ve Made Progress in the Last Ten Years.

Milliken points out that we’re doing better in the past ten years than we ever had. In the last decade, while we are not where we need to be yet, we are making headway. In the UK, for instance, the disability employment gap is still at around 30%. In Canada, it’s 31% and as Neil said, it’s “something similar” in the US. There is definitely a challenge in terms of accommodating people at work who actually don’t disclose their disabilities, but keep them hidden. But as we become more aware and open about issues of accessibility, that is starting to change. And businesses are starting to have conversations about disabilities and accessibility issues.

Providing Assistive Technologies Benefits the Entire Organization.

Providing assistive technologies isn’t just about helping a select group with disabilities. As Neil pointed out, it benefits the entire organization. In addition to making the workplace disability-inclusive, it may also help a whole range of other employees. For those who are not native speakers, assistive technologies can help them be more productive.

And diversity is a valuable mindset shift: As Milliken says, “If you see the value in diversity, if you can see the richness in having lots of different types of people, then can’t you understand how important it is also to have diversity of thought? With people whose brains are different, you’re going to reduce groupthink. You’re going to introduce creativity and different perspectives on life.” And we know more creativity and more perspectives create a far more innovative workplace.

Predictions for the Future of Work.

None of us have a crystal ball on the future of work. But Milliken imagines that the future of work will have two sides: human and technology. In the rush toward technology, AI and process automation will likely create certain disruptions but will also create new roles and jobs.

On the human side, Milliken notes that aging will have a significant impact on the future of work. We have five generations in the workforce now, and people are getting older and retiring later. Older employees with age-related disabilities will certainly populate the workforce in greater numbers. That means there will be a massive number of people with disabilities in the workforce. It’s going to be increasingly important to continue making workplaces accessible for everyone. So, as Milliken says, “Let’s be sure that we’re going to roll our sleeves up and get it done.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

6 Reasons to Hire Older, Out-of-Work Workers

Age discrimination? Those of us in the staffing industry see our fair share. And although this bias is covert and unspoken, it is undeniable and certainly disconcerting.

HR professionals, hiring managers, and the organizations they work for need to be more creative and thoughtful in utilizing talent of all ages to synergize the workplace. Ignoring or discarding the rich experience and wisdom of our aging work force may one day lead to large voids of expertise and skill across many industries and markets.

When interviewing an older worker, those responsible for hiring should try changing their mind-set and looking at these candidates with a fresh perspective. After all, gray-haired candidates bring a lifetime’s worth of skill and experience to the table.

Here are 6 reasons why older, out-of-work workers are good for your business!

1) Older workers have a longer-term perspective: Unlike younger workers, who are using their first few job opportunities as stepping stones to their higher aspirations, older employees are in it for the long haul. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the median job tenure for workers in the 55 – 64 age range is about 3.3 times that of workers 25-34 years old. ” Since low turnover is a sign of engaged and productive workers, Older employees could be key to a thriving business.

2) Older workers have valuable industry connections: “It’s not what you know it’s WHO you know.” — it’s so true! Experienced professionals have the inside track on the best vendors, potential clients and even referrals for open positions within your company. These connections can help departments save time and save money, too!

3) Older workers support, guide and mentor their younger counterparts: With a wealth of knowledge and experience, cross-generational sharing can help jump start the effectiveness and success of the younger employees in an organization.  They can learn from each other.

4) Older workers’ benefits do not cost any more than their younger counterparts: According to AARP, “The total number of sick days per year for older workers is lower than other age groups … they have fewer acute illnesses and occasional sick days. Health, disability, and life insurance costs may increase as workers get older, but they are offset by the lower costs of fewer dependents. Overall, the costs of fringe benefits stay the same as a percentage of salary for all age groups.” The Committee on Economic Development recently reported that employers rate older workers high on characteristics such as judgment, commitment to quality, attendance, and punctuality.  All of these factors need to be considered when making a judgement based on the cost of hiring.

5) Older workers can hit the ground running: With years of experience behind them, older workers do not generally require a large “ramping up” period; they’ve most likely worked in an environment similar to the one they are stepping into. They have also lived through a variety of on-the-job shake-ups (downsizing, relocations, leadership changes, corporate crisis) and can certainly function in these situations. In fact, they may actually provide ideas and solutions for these and other business challenges.

6) Older workers may be more willing to negotiate: Think younger labor is cheaper? Maybe not! The long-term unemployed (meaning the older workers) are accepting jobs at substantially reduced salaries … when they need and want to work, baby boomers and beyond are taking lateral and lower pay. And, in some instances, older workers are choosing to enter a new phase of their career, preferring to downgrade their responsibility and stress-level while maintaining their productivity. It’s a mistake to think older workers have priced themselves out of the job market.

Perhaps this issue has broader implications, beyond HR and hiring managers. Maybe its time for our entire society to change its perception of aging and retirement. The key to accepting our older unemployed as viable job candidates is to realize that we are an aging society; one that is living longer and better. The productivity and contributions of our older workers could enhance the business world for years to come. It would be a shame for our economy and our society if we continue to turn our backs on this rich and abundant resource.

Please chime in on this crucial issue!!!

This post was first published on LinkedIn. 

Photo Credit: v82jonathan Flickr via Compfight cc

Five Millennial Background Screening Challenges

By the end of 2015, Millennials are expected to outnumber Baby Boomers in the workplace for the first time. They’re hot commodities, but hiring them creates background screening challenges.

In particular, when screening Millennials, employers need to take into account not only what’s effective, but also what’s legal. Below are five of the chief challenges.

1. Social Media Searches

We know Millennials love their social networks. But some say Millennials share too freely. The resulting wealth of online information can be tempting for hiring managers.

Using social media to screen candidates can be risky, however. The information you find might not be legal to use in a hiring context. Information about religious affiliation, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status or health condition may all be prohibited under anti-discrimination laws. Plus, Millennials appear to have more cultural diversity than Gen X or Baby Boomers—42 percent identify with a race or ethnicity other than non-Hispanic white.

The legal risks associated with social media searches are not unique to Millennials, but because of their diverse makeup and propensity to share, employers are more likely to stumble upon protected class information. Employers shold ensure social media screening is done by those who are familiar with the legal risks.

2. Digital Natives And Age Discrimination

Millennials are not direct targets for age discrimination. But the hiring criteria you use to attract Millennials might be at the expense of people protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and similar state laws.

For example, in 2013, Facebook settled a lawsuit with California’s Fair Employment and Housing Department for posting an employment ad that stated “Class of 2007 or 2008 preferred.”

Another example is the term “digital native”—people born and raised in the digital age. It’s code for Millennials, and it’s popping up in job ads. Legal experts agree that pre-screening for digital natives is thinly veiled age discrimination. Instead of screening for digital natives, identify the job requirements. If you want someone skilled in tech and comfortable in the digital environment, use those words. Chances are, lots of Millennials will be qualified and respond.

3. Driving Records

According to AARP, Millennials drive around 25 percent less than their counterparts did just eight years ago. If a licensed driver with a clean driving record is your target, you might be eliminating prospective Millennial applicants. That might not be a big deal, but like all parts of a background check, you want to make sure the information you are seeking is relevant to the job.

Before you run a motor vehicle report (MVR) on an applicant, ask yourself why. Is a clean driving record a bona fide job requirement? Requiring a driver’s license or running a motor vehicle check would not rise to the level of discrimination, per se, but could limit your job pool in the 20-30-year-old market.

4. Credit

Millennials tend to rely less on traditional bank loans and credit cards, are more likely to use cash, and spend less than Gen X or Baby Boomers. They also tend to borrow less. As a result, many are “underbanked”—have little or no credit history. If a credit report is one of your job requirements, expect little or no information about unbanked Millennials.

Credit is already a slippery slope, with many states prohibiting use of credit for pre-employment screening. Credit information is a sensitive topic for many job candidates. It could be even touchier for Millennials.

5. Job History And Verifications

Millennials job-hop. According to Data Facts’ blog, “a whopping 91% of them don’t expect to stay at a job for longer than 3 years.” Moreover, according to a recent federal study, Millennials are less likely to have worked during school. So they are more likely to leave college without a work history.

All of this leaves a prospective employer with less to work with in terms of reference checking and verifications. As a result, screening for job history, applied skills and experience might be more challenging. One possible solution: expand the scope of inquiry to include volunteer experience and potentially personal references. However, the use of personal references and investigative reports may necessitate additional notices and further legal compliance under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.


Image: Bigstock

Old Dogs + New Tricks: Will HR Learn? #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Are you looking for complete highlights and resource links from this week’s events? Read the #TChat Recap: “Age Discrimination At Work: Bad Business”.)

This week, the TalentCulture community action is truly nonstop, with a trifecta of #TChat events! Let me help connect the dots between these three elements — old dogs, new tricks and HR lessons to live by:

1) HR Celebrates New Tools: Today Oct 6, TalentCulture’s intrepid founders Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman hit the ground running at this week’s HR Tech Conference — which promises to be the biggest and most mind-blowing ever. Meghan explains what all the buzz is about at “7 Hottest Trends In HR Technology.”

2) HR Learns New Tricks: Tomorrow Oct 7, LIVE from the conference, Meghan and Kevin host an Expert Roundtable Discussion on Employee Engagement. If you’re not at the conference, you can follow the action from a distance on the #TChat Twitter stream from 2:30-3:15pmPT (5:30-6:15pmET).

3) But Are “Old Dogs” Willing? Perhaps too often in today’s digitally driven workplace, it’s suggested that innovation is a young person’s game. But is that perception realistic? Is it fair? And is it even legal? Those questions inspired us to focus on age discrimination at our weekly #TChat Twitter chat, this Wednesday Oct 9.

Youth Code: Age In Today’s Workplace

If you’re familiar with TalentCulture, you know our community has no fear about taking on deeply human workplace issues. In the past year alone, we’ve explored the relationship between “thought diversity” and business innovation, we’ve considered the value of reverse mentoring, and we’ve discussed the need to remove age-related stereotypes as Millennials enter the workforce.

Now we invite you to fasten your seat belts as we take a realistic look at age discrimination, and its implications for an aging workforce. We’ll be guided by two respected HR community leaders:

Steve Levy, a prominent workforce sourcing expert and popular recruiting blogger.

Heather Bussing, an employment law attorney who is also a founding editorial advisory board member and contributor at HR Examiner.

I sat down briefly with Steve in a joint G+ Hangout to frame this topic. Watch now, and I’m sure you’ll won’t want to miss what should be a lively and helpful social learning opportunity this Wednesday on Twitter!

#TChat: Age Discrimination at Work: Perception and Reality

#TChat Twitter — Wednesday, Oct 9 7pmET / 4pmPT

This week, we’ll skip the #TChat Radio interview and jump right into the #TChat Twitter stream, with event moderator, Cyndy Trivella. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to join us as we discuss these 5 questions:

Q1: Do you see age discrimination at work? Describe it.
Q2: If a company hires or fires with age in mind, what does that say about its culture?
Q3: Which is more prevalent / problematic: discrimination of young or old?
Q4: How can we improve the perception and reality of age at work? Laws? And…?
Q5: What role can technology play in empowering older workers?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our LinkedIn Discussion Group. So feel free to contribute your thoughts. Please join us and share your ideas, opinions, questions, and concerns!

We’ll see you on the stream!