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What’s the Matter With Older Workers 45+?

You might be tempted to ask, “What’s the matter with older workers, 45+?”, and the answer will depend on who you ask. We don’t really need a survey to tell us what we already know – that many older workers are sidelined for job opportunities because of their age. And the excuses by hiring managers are many: They are too set in their ways; hesitant to learn new technologies, and difficulty fitting in with a multigenerational workforce. Not all of that is true!

The non-profit organization Generation commissioned a global survey to provide an in-depth view of individuals aged 45–60 who are seeking or working in entry-level and intermediate roles. In an interview on a McKinsey podcast titled, The Economic Impact of Ageism, Mona Mourshed, founding CEO of Generation offered some key insights from the survey. 

  • Midcareer workers 45+ and older who looking for entry-level to intermediate positions are struggling!
  • Older mid-career workers make up the bulk of the long-term unemployed in many countries and they face growing barriers to finding good jobs. Average length of time to find a job for 45+ individuals in Canada and USA is 27 weeks.
  • Midcareer individuals across the world are finding it harder to get jobs—despite rising calls to address inequality and advance social justice.
  • People age 45+ face persistent and rising pressure in the global job market. They are unemployed for much longer and their age is one of the greatest barriers to their finding a job.
  • Those from underrepresented communities face even greater barriers. They engage in 53 percent more interviews in order to get a job offer.
  • Hiring managers have a strong perception bias against 45+. They believe that members of this age cohort have poor skills and low adaptability. They strongly favour job candidates aged 35-44 over 45+ individuals. They believe that this younger age group outperforms the 45+ cohort in every area of evaluation – application readiness, experience and ‘fit’. According to hiring managers, this age group has well-prepared documents and portfolios, offer good referrals and do well in interviews.
  • Hiring managers cite three top concerns regarding age 45+ job candidates: their reluctance to try new technologies, inability to learn new skills, and difficulty working with coworkers of a different generation.
  • Although hiring managers may express bias against 45+ individuals, those same employers acknowledge that once they hire people over 45, those same workers (87 percent), perform on the job just as well as or even better than their peers who are a decade younger.
  • Employers value reputable training and credentialing. Individuals 45+ who have successfully switched careers regard training as being important to securing their new jobs. By contrast, 45+ individuals whose job prospects would most benefit from training, are often especially hesitant to undertake training.
  • Of those who switched careers, 74 percent say attending training helped them to secure their new position.
  • Hiring managers are calling for higher levels of education, behavioural skills, tech skills, and technical or job-specific skills, and they are more often requiring work experience for entry-level positions.
  • Tech roles lead the increase in job requirements.
  • Candidates face more job-screening methods than they did one to two years ago, including background checks, skills and personality tests, group panel interviews, candidate presentations and drug tests.
  • The 45+ who need the training the most to get a job are the most hesitant to pursue it.
  • The 45+ who have successfully switched professions believe that training has been central to their ability to do so, and employers agree.
  • National statistics (Canada, Singapore, Spain and the United States) show that 45+ and 50+ individuals have consistently made up 40-70 percent of the long-term unemployment since 2015.

How Can Hiring Managers Rectify Interview Inequities?

Based on the survey, employers and hiring managers have a lot of work to do. They should address interview inequities and treat it as a top priority. Even when they do hire 45+ individuals. Their biases tend to survive despite their experience to the contrary.

“Like attracts like” is often said. Of the hiring managers in the survey, 39 percent were 35-44 (while 33 percent were 18-34 and 28 percent were 45+).

Some 45+ also share the blame; it’s not just hiring managers.  are not the only ones to be

Recommendations from the Survey:

As the survey states, no single action will solve the challenges uncovered by our survey. Deep-seated societal issues and attitudes lie at the heart of age-based biases, and they will take time to address.

National governments and global multilaterals can publish short-and long-term unemployment statistics with narrower age brackets.

More often than not, global data sets assembled by multilateral organizations combine a wide span of ages into a single bracket—typically 25–74 or 25–54—on which they report short- and long-term employment and unemployment outcomes. This sprawling aggregation of data results obscures the unique issues faced by the age 45+ population, making their plight much harder to track.

Practitioners and policymakers can link training programs directly to employment opportunities, and provide stipends, to support 45+ individuals who are hesitant to train.

Midcareer switchers overwhelmingly say that training enabled them to shift to a new career trajectory. But for the segment of the 45+ population who are hesitant to undertake training, employers should take into account the time and money that they probably cannot afford.

Employers can change hiring practices to get a clearer view of potential 45+ candidate talent.

Shift from a traditional resume-centered interview to an interview process that enables 45+ candidates to show their skills through demonstration-based exercises.

Pay attention to the “Like attracts like” factor. Of the hiring managers in the survey, 39 percent were 35-44 (while 33 percent were 18-34 and 28 percent were 45+).

Employers can rethink current approaches to make it easier to fill new and revamped roles with existing 45+ employees, instead of relying solely on new hires.

Success in reskilling 45+ employees will demand deeper reflection and concerted action by employers to overcome age-based biases within their own organization.

While there is enough blame to go around, some 45+ workers need to become proactive and embrace training as the new rule of the job search road, especially since forecasts suggest that one-third of all jobs worldwide will be transformed by technology. 

As the survey states, older workers are capable of adapting and switching careers and mastering new roles but they cannot meet all their challenges alone. Employers and policymakers need to take steps to counter the rampant ageism.

Finally, keep in mind that older workers are our friends, neighbours, and parents. Do we seize the compelling opportunity they offer, or abandon them to lives of quiet desperation and long-term unemployment?

_________________

Sources:

Meeting the World’s Midcareer Moment (www.generation.org

Download a copy of Generation’s Report: Meeting-the-Worlds-Midcareer-Moment-July-2021).

Download Kick Ageism to the Curb-Your Career Isn’t Over_Crowd-sourced Resource, a resource compiled by this author with contributions from a number of career coaches: 

McKinsey’s Podcast: The Economic Impact of Ageism (https://mck.co/3ERQB5H)

 

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