At a time when senior living operators and other employers are having difficulty filling vacant positions and retaining sufficient numbers of workers, it makes sense for companies to pursue solutions via multiple avenues.
And yet a recent AARP survey, “The Value of Experience,” indicates that often, employers are avoiding or underappreciating one potential solution — workers aged 45 or more years — and these older workers are experiencing a lot of dead ends.
The research is at least the second national report this year to focus on age discrimination in the workplace. In June, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released a report to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. As I previously wrote, that report found that although the ADEA has helped bring equality and fairness to the workplace for older employees, age discrimination persists based on outdated and unfounded assumptions about older workers, aging and discrimination.
Rather than focus on where employers go wrong, however, let’s focus on what you can do to make it right. Here are some ideas based on the findings of the AARP survey, which was fielded in September 2017 and included 3,900 respondents aged 45 or more who were working or looking for work:
- Commit to fostering a workplace environment that does not abide age discrimination. A whopping 61% of older workers surveyed said they either had seen or directly had experienced age discrimination at work. Senior living, an industry devoted to helping people live their fullest lives as they age, is an ideal place to set an example for other employers as well as residents and their families. Consider taking the AARP’s Employer Pledge, which I’ve written about before.
- Consciously include workers aged 45 or more years in your hiring and retention efforts. Sixteen percent of older workers surveyed reported not getting hired because of their age, 12% said they weren’t promoted at their jobs and 7% said they were laid off, fired or forced out of a job because of their age.
- Examine your application and interview process. Are you conveying that you value older workers? Do you really need to have all of the information you are requesting? Among the 29% of older workers surveyed who had applied for a job or gone on an interview in the past two years, 44% said they had been asked to provide a birth date, graduation year or other information. “While asked for birth dates or graduation dates is not automatically illegal, the information can easily be used to discriminate, and these questions often deter older workers from applying,” the survey report states.
- If you manage or are a colleague to older workers, don’t make negative comments related to their age. Twenty-four percent of the older workers surveyed reported being subjected to such comments from either a boss (15%) or a coworker (9%). Sounds like an opportunity for employee training.
More than 90% of those surveyed said they support strengthening age discrimination laws. There’s no need to wait for stronger laws to implement these and other ideas inspired by the report, however.
As AARP Senior Research Adviser Rebecca Perron notes, “With their rich work histories, varied experiences and expertise, and work tenures that speak to commitment and resilience, older workers should have the opportunity to be judged on their merits rather than their age.”