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Breaking Ageism: Building a Workplace Where Age is Just a Number

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In Indonesia, job opportunities are popping up left and right, but here’s the twist—they often come with an age cap of 25!

This phenomenon is often referred to as ageism in the workplace, where age becomes the primary factor in determining whether someone is suitable for a particular job position.

Ageism can be categorized as discrimination; therefore, it is crucial for HR managers to catch onto these trends and come up with strategies to address ageism. Why? Well, it’s all about creating a workplace where everyone can be productive without age holding them back.

What is ageism?

via GIPHY

Ageism can occur in the form of stereotypes or prejudices against individuals who are older or younger than a specific age group. It involves viewing older individuals as unproductive or unable to keep up with technological advancements, or perceiving younger individuals as inexperienced or incapable of making meaningful contributions.

Ageism takes a toll on how well employees perform. When they feel like their efforts aren’t appreciated, it saps their motivation to get tasks done effectively. This often spirals into stress, brought on by the uncertainty of their career path and feelings of insecurity, all of which impact productivity.

Moreover, when companies turn away potential hires just because of age, they’re not only a missed opportunity for valuable talent. They also send out negative stereotypes that can harm the company’s reputation.

Recently, there has been a proliferation of content on social media discussing the challenges of working with Generation Z. Creators, mainly from the Millennial generation and older, claim that the younger generation nowadays lacks good work ethics.

On the other hand, about 60% of older employees have experienced age discrimination in the workplace. They are often perceived as not tech-savvy, outdated, and less agile, especially in the technology industry. Many tend to overlook the valuable experience and wisdom that senior employees bring.

ageism in the workplace statistic

However, although ageism still persists, it is gradually decreasing in some industries, particularly those that allow employees to work remotely. Jobs such as writing, consulting, or freelancing typically permit anyone to contribute, regardless of their age.

Furthermore, many companies are now implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives to address any form of discrimination and create a more diverse and balanced workplace.

Does ageism impact companies?

Absolutely. Here are some negative impacts of ageism:

1. Limited opportunities for experience

Ageism restricts older individuals from accessing job opportunities, eliminating the chance for organizations to gain valuable experience and new perspectives they bring. This can hinder innovation within the workplace.

2. Lack of diversity in skills

Due to a focus on age rather than the skills possessed by candidates, companies may miss out on a pool of potential talent and abilities. Additionally, when employees come from similar age groups, collaboration for innovation among teams may be disrupted.

3. Affecting employee morale

Perceived discrimination has an impact on the morale of employees in the workplace. Younger workers often feel undervalued and underestimated, while older employees may feel marginalized and less needed. This creates a negative atmosphere, leading to decreased overall job satisfaction and productivity.

4. Higher turnover rates

Employees who feel discriminated against are likely to seek employment in places that appreciate them based on their abilities rather than age. This results in higher turnover rates, leading to a long-term skills gap within the organization and a loss of competitive advantage in the market.

One real-life case of a company facing the negative impacts of ageism is Google. They have repeatedly faced lawsuits and had to pay damages to former employees in age discrimination cases.

In one instance, a 52-year-old employee named Reid was transferred to another program after two years of service. However, he was not provided with the resources to carry out his new role, and the program was eventually shut down. 

Reid was replaced by an employee 20 years younger than him, with his supervisor stating that Reid didn’t fit into Google’s culture. Additionally, Reid experienced bullying from colleagues who teased him about being old and slow.

These series of cases have also stained Google’s reputation, as they have been criticized for failing to address ageism in the workplace. Despite Google announcing diversity statistics in 2014 and pledging to hire more women, minorities, and LGBTQ employees, age was not addressed at all.

Overcoming ageism

Here are some strategies and best practices for HR managers to combat ageism in the workplace:

1. Conduct training programs

Offer workshops and training sessions on age bias and ageism to raise awareness among employees. Teach them about the benefits of multi-generational collaboration and challenge existing stereotypes.

Through targeted training, employees can develop a deeper understanding of how age can impact workplace dynamics, hindering collaboration and productivity. These training initiatives not only challenge stereotypes but also foster open dialogue and empathy.

2. Adjust company policies

Conduct periodic audits of organizational policies and culture to ensure they support diversity and appreciate the contributions of all employees, regardless of age. For instance, in recruitment policies, ensure that employee selection is based on qualifications, experience, and skills rather than age.

Avoiding age-related questions during interviews can also help reduce potential biases. Similarly, in performance evaluations, create fair and objective assessments based on actual achievements and contributions rather than age. This can reduce inequalities in promotion and career development opportunities.

Baca Juga: Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace: Why is it Important?

3. Developing an inclusive work culture

An inclusive work culture is an environment where all employees feel accepted, valued, and supported regardless of their background, skin color, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Building an inclusive and supportive work culture can enhance employee satisfaction and motivate them to excel in their roles.

By implementing these strategies and practices, companies can create a fair and inclusive work environment, leveraging the potential of all employees, regardless of their age.

While the Labor Law of 2003 does not explicitly stipulate prohibitions on age limits, Article 5 states that “Every worker has an equal opportunity without discrimination to obtain employment.” Article 6 of this law emphasizes that every worker is entitled to receive equal treatment without discrimination from employers. 

Adding weight to these provisions, Law No. 21 of 1999, ratifying ILO Convention No. 111 Concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation, places a broad responsibility on the state to ensure the absence of discrimination throughout the entire employment relationship, from recruitment to its execution.

In essence, as long as someone is capable of performing the job, the state should guarantee equal opportunities for them to obtain employment.

Real-life cases of companies that addressed ageism

Cases of ageism commonly observed in companies are often linked to older workers who are no longer perceived as productive, leading to their frequent termination and replacement with younger employees. However, in this process, they often lose decades’ worth of intellectual capital.

At Michelin, there is the Returning Retiree Program, a response to the aging global workforce. One in four employees is now 55 or older. This initiative is open to all Michelin retirees, regardless of their previous roles, and leverages their skills for both short- and long-term projects.

David Stafford, Vice President of Human Resources at Michelin North America, notes that their retirees bring “a lot of knowledge and skills,” simultaneously aiding Michelin in maintaining a flexible workforce.

Tips for HR managers

HR managers play a crucial role in identifying, addressing, and preventing ageism within the organization. Here are some ways to achieve this:

1. Regular training programs

Conduct periodic training to enhance HR managers’ awareness of ageism. Teach them to recognize signs of age discrimination and understand its negative impact on the work environment.

HR can also establish mentoring programs involving collaboration across generations. Connect younger employees with experienced mentors, and vice versa. This can break stereotypes and strengthen connections among diverse age groups.

2. Inclusive communication strategies

Enhance communication strategies that appreciate the contributions of all generations. Ensure that age is not a basis for discrimination in the language and imagery used. Also, encourage an open dialogue culture among team members.

It is also important to implement and communicate policies that support inclusivity, such as flexible work policies, equal career development opportunities, and recognition based on achievements, irrespective of age.

3. A fair recruitment process

Revise recruitment processes to eliminate potential age bias. Ensure that qualifications and relevant experience are the primary focus, considering diverse backgrounds of experience.

Simultaneously, define roles and responsibilities for employees based on their unique abilities and contributions rather than age. Ensure that the performance evaluation process emphasizes actual achievements and demonstrated skills, fostering a workplace culture that values individual merit over age-related factors.

Conclusion

In conclusion, addressing ageism in the workplace is not just a matter of compliance; it’s a commitment to fostering a dynamic, inclusive, and innovative work environment.

By recognizing the diverse strengths that each generation brings, implementing fair hiring practices, and valuing employees based on their abilities rather than age, organizations can not only mitigate the negative impacts of ageism but also harness the full potential of their workforce.

Deciding to kick ageism out of the office might take a bit, but we have got your back! We see that HR managers need professional solutions that can save time and effort. That’s why Mekari provides everything you need as an HR professional.

From the recruitment process to financial services, including use-case payroll disbursement loans, you no longer have to go through these processes manually!

References

Builtin. ”Ageism in the Workplace: Statistics to Know
Forbes. ”Deja Vu: Google Settles Age Discrimination Lawsuit For $11 Million
Next Avenue. ”Ageism in the Workplace: Companies Breaking the Mold

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