Ageism is a commonplace problem that is only really just beginning to be acknowledged and addressed in organizations of all sizes.
In many cases it is especially pernicious because it flies under the radar and means that older people are discriminated against without even realizing it.
If you are keen to stamp out ageism in your business, knowing where to look for it and how to fight it is a good starting point, so here are some strategies to ensure that team members are treated with respect and enjoy equal opportunities, regardless of their age.
Value and celebrate employees who are nearing retirement
It is undeniably important to demonstrate to employees that their contributions are valued by the company as a whole, and this is particularly crucial as retirement approaches and individuals may be reflecting on their many years of service.
Planning a retirement party is a responsibility which should be taken seriously, since it will be the culmination of a team member’s career and should be a special occasion that showcases exactly what they mean to the firm that has been such a big part of their life for so long.
There is definitely a sense in some corporate cultures that older members of staff are not as valuable as their younger counterparts, but you need to be proactive in dispelling this, and public recognition of achievements such as retirement parties set a positive example that others will follow.
Offer training opportunities
Another vital weapon in the war on ageism is the unrestricted provision of training to employees of all ages and backgrounds.
The temptation to write off older workers as being incapable of learning any new skills or even changing their professional discipline of choice entirely after they hit a certain landmark ages may be there, but this goes against research which shows that lifelong learning is hugely advantageous, especially in a business context.
So this is not just about being attuned to the needs of individuals, but also recognizing that the business itself stands to benefit from providing training to older employees, which can even set them up for jobs post-retirement.
Embrace experience to solve problems
Problem-solving is something which all businesses have to do to succeed, and with a multi-generational workforce at your disposal, you are actually in a much better position to overcome the challenges you face.
While younger team members may be tech savvy enough to seek out digital solutions to pressing problems, older employees will be able to fall back on their long experience in their roles, and will also think about issues in a different way to their fresh faced peers.
Being attuned to this reality should ensure that you not only accept that experience can breed wisdom, but also that it makes more sense to have teams made up of people of different ages, rather than skewing more towards one specific generation, regardless of which audience you are targeting.
Make the most of mentoring
Leading on from the idea that the experience of older employees is a good thing in a team working scenario, it should also be said that mentorship is another mutually beneficial option when you have employees from across the age spectrum.
When veterans are paired with rookies, this is very much a two way street; the experience of the former can rub off on the latter, while older employees will also find their own careers bolstered because they are connecting with a new generation and will be building contacts in a legitimate and acceptable way, rather than having to be proactive about this themselves.
Put inclusivity at the top of the agenda
Perhaps the most subtle form of ageism in the business world comes about when older employees are excluded from certain events that their younger colleagues are able to attend.
This could be something as important as a meeting with a major client, or something as seemingly unremarkable as post-work drinks on a Friday evening. Whatever the case, managers and business leaders need to be aware of this and aim to ensure that everyone is included in such events equally, regardless of their seniority.
It may take time and effort to reduce and eliminate ageism in the workplace, but it is very much a process worth pursuing, since it is one which we will ultimately all face.