Workers over 50 make up a third of the UK workforce. Despite this, ageism is a challenge that many more experienced workers are facing.

Throughout the pandemic, it was well documented that younger workers (18-24) were affected most heavily. However, the older generation of workers was largely overlooked in the discussion.

Older workers were the group most likely to have been furloughed or facing redundancy.  Between May and July 2021, 31,000 over-50s were made redundant and at the end of 2021, there were still over 360,000 people aged 55 + on furlough.

Today, the cost of living crisis and increases in redundancy mean that many older workers may suddenly find themselves looking for new roles.

Evidence from past periods of economic downturns suggests that these professionals will struggle to find a new job, even when the economy picks up.

A loss to the labour market.

This would be a huge loss to the labour market. The over-50 demographic offers a mass wealth of experience that is invaluable both to businesses and the younger workers within them.

Are you looking to grow your tech team?

Here’s why you shouldn’t discount hiring a tech professional over 50.

Reliability and retention.

Older workers are usually honest and highly reliable. As a rule, workers over 50 aren’t late and only take genuine periods of sick leave.  Their reliability also extends into the work they do.  With a desire, and possibly a need to work, older workers are driven by completing work efficiently, and with a ‘right-first-time’ mentality.

A survey conducted by Nationwide reveals that once in work, workers over 50 were less likely to “job jump” than their younger counterparts.  If they are in a role that aligns with their experience and skill set, they have very little motivation to move jobs unlike those who may be at a more ambitious stage in their careers.

This loyalty and retention of knowledge and information supports business continuity. It ensures that there will always be someone more experienced to help integrate and support new joiners.

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Knowledge and expertise.

The wealth of experience and industry knowledge older workers acquire throughout their careers is invaluable.  An older worker is more likely to have worked across departments, on many different projects, and in many sectors.

A study by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), reveals that more than three-quarters of businesses said the experience of workers aged 50 or older was the main benefit of employing them in their organisation.

This was followed by the reliability of workers in this age group and their mentoring potential for younger workers.

Legacy knowledge vs. innovation.

Often though, it is this depth of “old” knowledge that goes against older tech workers. Coming through is a new generation of digital-native grads who are tech-savvy and up-to-date with all the on-trend industry developments.

However, new trends have evolved from more traditional models. And new processes often have their roots in more established ones. Older workers have a solid base from which to understand and learn the new.

Room for both.

Tech employers should try to balance their workforce to enjoy the best of both demographics. With carefully worded language in job adverts, businesses can appeal to both cohorts. The result will be a talent pool of diverse applicants who have a melting pot of experience, knowledge and innovation.

Leadership and mentorship.

Workers over 50 can serve as critical support for younger workers. Their leadership potential is huge.

Often this group doesn’t rely as heavily upon digital communication as younger staff.  Their methods of communication are more traditional and offer a more comprehensive understanding of tasks and processes.

This is also true of soft skills. Perhaps an older worker’s experience lends itself better to conversation and spoken communication. Their years in the workplace mean they are likely to be seasoned in navigating professional relationships.

The advice they can impart on conflict resolution or professional disagreements could prove to be an invaluable resource for someone younger and less adept at this.

Quality networks.

Longevity of time in the workplace means that older workers will have built and maintained relationships with a wide variety of professionals across departments and industries.

Years of work and this established professional network mean that companies have the potential to access this source of opportunity and professional resources.

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What can businesses do to avoid age discrimination?

Advertising best practice.

Hiring starts with advertising the role.  Recruiters and hiring managers must be careful not to ostracise or implicitly discriminate against ANY age group in the wording or the communication of their job adverts.

To make sure your advert is seen by job seekers from all demographics, there needs to be an omnichannel approach. By advertising the role on social media sites as well as traditional marketing channels, you can ensure that the role has a wider reach. You will achieve a more diverse talent pool to select from.

Refine and define what the business needs.

Perhaps businesses need to look at “what” they need, rather than “who” they need.

Instead of having an idea about the sorts of individuals that may fit the company brand, hiring managers or recruitment teams need to focus on a skills-based approach that would get the job done.  To do this,

1. Specify the skills required.

This is an objective way to define what person the company needs as skills are not age-dependent.  Think about soft skills as well as technical skills. These must be listed in the early processes.

2. Experience.

The required experience should focus on the type of experience required rather than the longevity of the experience.  The length of service will become apparent when you start to shortlist CVs and conduct interviews.

3. Qualifications.

Skills-based hiring is outdating the antiquated practice of hiring for qualifications alone.  To hire a more diverse age range of candidates, companies need to look at qualifications using a wider lens.  Some older workers may not have some technical qualifications that younger more digitally present younger candidates have.  Despite this, maturity and professional experience bring transferable skill sets and capabilities that hold meaningful benefits for organisations.

Looking for your next role?

We would love to hear from you if you are a tech, digital, or data professional looking for your next role. Our clients are inclusive organisations that hold diversity at their hearts. We and they welcome applications that reflect our wider society and lived experiences.

Get in touch today.

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