Ageism is a primary example of this, as its subtle nature often makes it difficult to recognise. As the name suggests, ageism refers to discriminatory treatment based on age. It usually involves the neglect, mistreatment, and alienation of older employees by their co-workers or organisation.
Factors like a company’s culture, policies and practices affect the treatment of older professionals in the workplace. For example, a company might implement compulsory retirement policies that force employees to resign once they fall under an age group.
Ageism is often born from the preconceived notions that society has about age. Some believe that the older people get, the less capable they become—physically and mentally. However, these are all assumptions with no basis, as there are many advantages of being older.
1. Why Older Employees Matter
No amount of money or teaching can buy experience. Older employees are a fountain of wisdom and often display a strong work ethic from the years in their profession. They can play a crucial role in training younger professionals within the workplace, as they can impart valuable skills that can’t be gleaned from textbooks and schooling.
Unfortunately, older employees can still experience ageism despite the many benefits they offer to their organisations. Hence, it’s paramount that company leaders do their part in fostering an equitable workplace for all employees, regardless of their age. It means promoting values like inclusivity, respect, and accountability in organisational practices.
On that note, below are five effective ways to prevent and eliminate ageism in your workplace:
2. Offer Sensitivity Training
The first step to preventing ageism in the workplace is to encourage employees to be more aware of unconscious biases or stereotypes they might harbour.
After all, ageism happens when implicit biases are left unchecked. For example, a supervisor might tell an older employee to leave the digital work to the “younger generation.” While this comment seems innocuous, it perpetuates the idea that older workers are incapable of understanding technology.
Thus, it’s important to offer training programs that promote diversity and inclusion within the organisation. It might include teaching employees how to recognise signs of ageism within the workplace and respond to these encounters. These programs should also cover the benefits of working with a diverse range of age groups and the negative consequences of ageism within an organisation.
3. Set Up a Mentorship Program
Creating a mentorship program can be a great way to bridge generational gaps and eliminate any tensions that may arise due to age differences.
While mentorship programs usually involve older employees teaching skills learnt over the years to younger employees, that’s not the only way to do it. You can also have these roles reversed at some point in the program, with younger employees helping their mentors in certain areas. For example, these younger employees can offer their senior colleagues tips for navigating new and unfamiliar digital landscapes.
The core purpose of this setup is to foster a culture that encourages employees—both young and old—to view their differences as opportunities to learn from one another and promote professional growth.
4. Implement Anti-Discrimination Policies
Besides offering sensitivity training and mentorship programs, you also need to implement anti-discrimination policies. This assures older employees that their organisation will not tolerate any form of unfair treatment towards them.
Thus, all employees should have a thorough run-down of these rules – clearly stating the consequences of violating company policies. Additionally, leaders should be committed to enforcing formal disciplinary action when the need arises.
5. Provide Equal Benefits and Opportunities for All
As a leader, you should also incorporate inclusivity in your company practices. The best way to do this is by providing equal benefits and opportunities to employees of all ages.
On that note, avoid leaving older employees out of more challenging assignments, company activities, and important meetings. Be sure to offer the same training or education programs to all organisation members, regardless of skill level.
Another way to combat ageism is to give employees raises or promotions based on their performance at work. This way, they’re rewarded for concrete or measurable achievements rather than due to biases regarding tenure or age.
6. Establish Open Lines of Communication
Despite the measures you put into place, ageism can still happen in the workplace. Hence, it’s necessary to establish open lines of communication within your organisation. It creates a safe space for employees to air their concerns or discuss any forms of discrimination they may encounter. This way, you or the HR staff can immediately address problems and ensure that older employees feel heard.
The fight against ageism is a fight for workplace equality. All employees, regardless of age, have the potential to make valuable contributions to your organisation. Applying these tips above can create a strong multigenerational workforce that embraces diversity and keeps moving forward.