Ageing like a Fine Wine… Embracing Wisdom and Breaking Free from Ageism

‘Age is an issue of mind over matter – if you don’t mind. It doesn’t matter’ – Mark Twain.

As the professional landscape evolves, ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ have become buzzwords across all sectors and industries. Despite this, ageism still persists in hiring practices, as a quietly pervasive form of discrimination. 

‘Ageism is the prejudice that’s hidden in plain sight […] It is often dismissed as being harmless, but ageist ideas can be incredibly damaging for us as individuals and for wider society.’ - Carole Easton, Chief Executive at the Centre for Ageing Better.

As with all forms of discrimination, ageism ultimately hinders the progress and success of businesses. It’s time to debunk stereotypes surrounding older workers and shed light on the untapped potential of this demographic. As of 2020, there were 9.3 million older workers in the UK aged 50 and above, presenting an opportunity for business-savvy employers to harness a vast pool of experience and talent.  

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Old is Gold: Why Ignoring Older Workers Costs More Than You Think…

According to a Times article by Jane Hamilton, failing to harness the potential of this demographic could be costing the economy £31 billion due to decreased output, lower tax revenues, and higher welfare expenditures. As our population continues to age, businesses that do not address the problem of ageism, or adapt to attract and retain older talent, risk falling behind their competitors. Embracing age diversity is not just a matter of social responsibility; it’s a strategic imperative for sustainable growth and success.

Older Workers are Skilled and Experienced

The value of experience cannot be overstated. A study by the World Economic Forum revealed that, on average, individuals aged 45 and above demonstrate higher problem-solving abilities than their younger counterparts. Consider an Executive Assistant, Personal Assistant or Private PA who has weathered economic downturns, navigated diverse industries, and mastered the art of adaptability. This wealth of experience is an invaluable asset that contributes to the resilience and innovation of the team.

Meet Sarah, a seasoned Executive Assistant with over 30 years of experience. Throughout her EA career, she has seamlessly adapted to evolving technologies, handled high-pressure situations, and streamlined processes for maximum efficiency. Sarah's very senior EA experience not only brings a unique perspective to her role but also serves as a mentorship opportunity for younger team members.

For older workers, experience also often stretches beyond one job or one industry. Imagine Samantha, ex cabin crew, who brings her many years of experience in problem solving and public facing service to a job as a Receptionist in a successful Hedge Fund in her older years. 

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Older Workers Stay in Jobs Longer and Take Fewer Days Off

Retention is a puzzle that every HR professional is eager to solve. AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) research highlights that older workers tend to stay in their roles longer and take fewer days off compared to their younger counterparts. This not only fosters stability within the workforce but also results in substantial cost savings for companies by reducing the need for continuous recruitment and extensive training.
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Older Workers Have a Strong Work Ethic

Raised in an era where commitment and diligence were non-negotiable, older workers often bring a strong work ethic to their roles. A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that older employees are more likely to endorse positive work attitudes, such as job commitment and job satisfaction.

Meet Janet, an Office Administrator known for her dedication and attention to detail. Having witnessed the evolution of office dynamics, she combines traditional work values with a willingness to adapt to modern practices. Janet's strong work ethic has not only enhanced the efficiency of her team but has also inspired her younger colleagues to strive for excellence. 

Older Workers Retain a Business's Knowledge and Networks

Losing a valuable employee means losing institutional knowledge and networks cultivated over the years. A study by Deloitte found that older workers are crucial for knowledge retention, as they serve as living repositories of a company's history, processes, and connections.

Imagine losing John, a Personal Assistant with over 25 years of experience. His vast network of contacts and deep understanding of the company's history has proven invaluable during transitions and strategic planning. Retaining employees like John ensures that critical information remains within the organization.

Older Workers are Empathetic

Commercially-savvy companies have started to recognise the importance of older staff members in bridging the gap with ageing customers. They value the insights of their experienced employees, understanding that these perspectives mirror those of their customer base. Choosing to ignore this could leave companies at a competitive disadvantage.  

The Perceived Technology Gap Can Be Overcome

Contrary to popular belief, older workers are not technologically inept. The Pew Research Center reports that the majority of adults aged 50 and older use the internet and own smartphones. With the right training and an open-minded approach, older workers can easily adapt to new technologies  … and do!

Time-Tested Talent: The Best Teams are Multigenerational

The magic happens when diverse experiences and perspectives come together. A Harvard Business Review study found that multigenerational teams outperform their homogeneous counterparts in terms of creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving.

Incorporating employees like Richard, an experienced Receptionist, into a team of younger professionals led to a harmonious blend of experience and fresh ideas. Richard’s ability to navigate interpersonal relationships and diffuse challenging situations has enhanced team dynamics, showcasing the strength of a multigenerational workforce. 

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Don’t forget the Very Young either!

Ageism is a pervasive issue that doesn't only affect older individuals but can also manifest as discrimination against younger candidates who are at the beginning of their careers. While experience is undoubtedly valuable, overlooking the potential of younger candidates based on age alone can also lead to missed opportunities for organizations. 

Open minded, and ready to learn younger candidates / recent graduates can be a great asset to business. There are, of course, the cost advantages to hiring younger candidates with less experience, who are on a lower pay scale. But on top of that, younger candidates are also a blank canvas ready to be trained up in any specific way a company might want for their employees; they will often have no previous methods of operating which means you are able to mould their approach so that it is bespoke to your company and values.  

In the pursuit of building vibrant and successful teams, companies must shatter ageist barriers and recognize the untapped potential of older workers. The UK's aging population presents a vast pool of experience and talent that can contribute significantly to organizational success and ….. profitability. By embracing the wisdom and experience that older workers bring, businesses can foster inclusivity, enhance productivity, and create workplaces that truly stand the test of time. It's time to rewrite the narrative and celebrate the richness that every generation brings to the table, ensuring a brighter and more diverse future for all. ‘60’ is very much the new ‘40’.

Knightsbridge Recruitment is a boutique consultancy which has been placing stand-out candidates in the most sought after permanent and temporary Executive Assistant, Personal Assistant, Private PA and executive office support jobs in London, for over 35 years.

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