How to embrace equity with different age groups? In the last couple of months there has been a lot of focus on encouraging older workers (i.e. workers over 50) returning to work, since a significant number have left employment. The UK government has been trying to encourage these talented people back to work at a time when there is a shortage of workers. This was highlighted in an article:
I always wonder why a particular group of people behave in a specific way. In the case of the over 50s leaving work in such large numbers, there must be reasons WHY they no longer wish to be in the workplace since the pandemic. These could include:
- Discovering there is more to life than working since the pandemic
- Long Covid symptoms
- Caring responsibilities with family members
- Not feeling welcome within the workplace as they are older
- Their experience and expertise not being valued at work
- The challenges of the over 50s being recruited
- Feeling that their skills are not valued since they are not as technically proficient
- Long term sickness: including still waiting for operations post-pandemic
Here is a recent The Apprentice episode which highlights how younger people perceive the value of any skill not accessible on a smartphone
One of the challenges is that there are many stereotypes with different age groups: especially the Millennials complaining about the “Boomers” and vice versa. Crazy beliefs such as Millennials being ‘snowflakes’ or Boomers entitled. And add to this that anyone over 50 is labelled as a ‘Boomer’ and technically illiterate, when there are plenty of older people who are not only technically proficient but embracing the best part of tech.
One of the most important elements of “Equity” is that we support everyone whilst recognising that people require different support based on their experiences and skillsets.Susan Heaton-Wright
We can solve the problem of employee shortages by embracing equity: by valuing the skillset everyone has, whilst providing necessary support where required. Here are some easy ways leaders could Embrace the Equity of different age groups.
- Stop stereotyping different age groups. We are all individuals and bring different values to the workplace. Labelling a whole age group as being lazy or entitled is not helpful.
- Challenge recruiters and the recruitment departments NOT to exclude talented over 50s, but to look at the skill set they have.
- If lack of tech skills is the issue, why not train them to acquire these?
- Ensure the IT training department fully embrace their role in developing individuals’ tech skills rather than the eye roll sneering many tech adopters experience. Respecting the fact that older workers have not had tech around them since they were born is important.
- Value experience as well as technical expertise; give everyone the opportunity to contribute to opinions and tasks.
- Recognise that people of different age groups have different challenges. We now appreciate that parents of young children require time off if a child is sick or for special school occasions. Older people could be caring for elderly relatives as well as children; this does not make them any less valuable or committed.
- Lead by example; as leaders and managers we should be openly valuing the contributions of people from every age group. Have ‘ideas’ meetings encouraging everyone to contribute; listen to each other and value others’ opinions. Setting the environment will help others.
- Remember to celebrate all successes. An older person who has not worked with tech before deserves as much recognition as a younger person who has completed some exams
In the end this is about recognising that everyone with the right attitude to work has a positive contribution to make. Instead of stereotyping and excluding talented people, see how you can support them to make even more contributions to work.