Ageism isn't just about senior citizens, or people over 65. It's about middle-aged highly talented people, as I wrote in my November 28th article titled "Ageism Not Your Problem? It Can Hit YOU Like a Semi-Truck!"
Much of society is still thinking about Ageism in the wrong way, and most people still don’t think middle class, middle-aged city dwellers with desirable skills are in jeopardy and throughout my 23 years in talent acquisition, perception has barely changed, if at all. The general ideology I usually heard from people are “It’s those people over age 65; “it doesn’t affect us here (in the city) just those folks in mid-west, the rust belt, or the coal mining states” or “its older people who can’t understand technology.”
Wrong! Ageism has been hammering fear into well-educated young talent in major cities all around the world and those people are just over 40 years old. In fact, 90% of people, (that right - 9 out of 10 people!) worry about their job security and their marketability in very business-oriented cities like Silicon Valley and others. So, in a time when we are living into our 80’s and even 90’s, a person being pushed out of their workforce at middle-age doesn’t make sense for many reasons.
An article in Entrepreneur magazine discussed some findings and stated: “recent studies and a proliferation of age-bias lawsuits demonstrates that the pursuit of youthful exuberance and thinkers uninhibited by what their senior counterparts would tout as “perspective” has dominated hiring and retention decision-making in Silicon Valley for years, propelling it like an aircraft carrier through a vast sea of tech talent, leaving fear, job dissatisfaction and countless older workers in its wake.” So, this thinking was what propelled the last decade – now you know.
But why do recruiters make these age discrimination decisions? I’ll tell you what the root cause is at the end of this blog post.
But as Ageism continues to grow, America and many other countries around the world say they can’t find talent - we have a talent shortage. Even though under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) workers over age 40 are a protected class it simply doesn’t stop Ageism from continuing to grow into a larger and larger problem. Companies are willing to risk serious consequences and even hurt themselves in the process by letting talent go that they know have depth and breadth and are proven asset, as well as having been groomed by these companies. Why? I wrote an article called “Insane is Trending: Breaking the Law for Economic Disadvantage” that pretty much sums up what companies are willing to do to perform Age Discrimination.
The list of companies that have been in the spotlight about their willingness to break U.S. federal and state laws in the name of hiring ever-younger-and-cheaper talent are many, including IBM, Google and Hewlett-Packard – and these are but a few of the big names that have been practising a culture of age discrimination.
What can be more cancerous to a nation than signalling to its society that when people, starting at age 40 (and now in 2020 reports of folks in their late 30’s), could be discriminated against for simply gaining experience and knowledge? Organizations are sending a message that you have a shelf life today, and no matter how much you educate yourself and no matter how hard your work you won’t make it anywhere near retirement age and chances are excellent you won’t be moving up the ladder.
With the current slate of statistics year over year, now chances are unfortunately excellent you’ll be moving backwards in your career and struggling to make ends meet. But, I repeat, these same cities have hundreds of companies that complain they can’t find talent.
So, is there any wonder that employee engagement statistics continuously poll poorly? In 2018, I cited this statistic from Dice: 66% of employee’s age 40-45 worry about their age will hurt their career. So, if you’re 37 or 38 years old, you’ll start sweating bullets. This is the American Dream in 2019 when there was no sign of a pandemic.
I am not just an author and researcher; I can speak from experience too. My last two jobs walked my career backward, and were contract-to-hire since I struggled to find a decent and commensurate full-time job at age 43. Get this, I got them both from friends who asked me to take the first 10 years off my resume as well as my MBA and two graduate certificates so I wouldn’t show any leadership or high aptitude - so I could get those contract opportunities and not show up as “overqualified. That’s the truth and that is not a strange story either. What does that say about how current hiring is conducted in the modern age?
So now, as I mentioned in the beginning of this post, what is my answer to why those recruiters who do all the interviewing perform so much discrimination? Leadership. Oddly enough, many of those leaders are probably in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. It starts from the top.
We are past the “wake-up” call at this point. Companies have touted equality, “employee first” mottos and websites that say “our employees are our number one asset.” Yet, they do the opposite…but the cat’s out of the bag at this point. Discrimination of any kind simply cannot be tolerated anymore. This kind of hiring and suppression of world talent is simply insane. There! I said it.
There are a great many solutions to reversing discrimination and I believe this year marks a new age of leadership; with initiatives like unconscious bias, critical incident, consciousness-raising and many other strategies that talent strategy experts that can make organizations shine with prosperity.
Look, today corporate leadership is under siege and rightly so. You don’t need a college degree to have seen so much poor leadership in the last decade. Now, CEO tenure is the lowest ever. As they say, what comes around, goes around. I know good CEO’s are just like you and me, they want to see everyone win and prosper.
So, let’s work together for a new decade of exploding Employee Engagement and prosperity.
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Singh is a leading consultant in the field of workforce development and talent acquisition strategy and has been a trusted adviser to hundreds of companies. Singh is the author of the Amazon top 10 bestseller on Ageism book; YOUR FUTURE IN PIECES.
He studies Adult Learning & Leadership and Employee Engagement strategy at Columbia University where he is constructing the next big meta trend model to supercharge workforce culture and productivity. Connect with Vinay.