6 ways to remove employment barriers and tackle workplace ageism

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Case Study

6 ways to remove employment barriers and tackle workplace ageism

RTM recently held an event at London’s Southbank Centre, focused on Tackling the Ageism Crisis in employment. Alongside our partners at 55/Redefined, the event aimed to challenge perceptions of the over 50s and explore how businesses can adapt to create age-inclusive environments and opportunity for future-proof workforces.

Client Engagement Director at RTM and event host Gemma McCartney, led the live panel discussion, covering a wealth of topics from unconscious bias, ageist language, to flexible working arrangements and policies, in a bid to open up the conversation around a vastly overlooked demographic.

Tackling ageism, like all areas within Diversity & Inclusion, isn't something that can be solved overnight. But there are some small steps we can all take to effect meaningful, lasting change in this area. Or as Lyndsey Simpson, CEO & Founder of 55/Redefined put it:

"Tackling ageism is a bit like trying to eat an elephant - it's not about engulfing everything in one go, but starting slowly, taking one small bite at a time."

Todd Harrison, Head of Talent and Resourcing at Sony Europe, Morag Lynagh, Global Future of Work Director at Unilever, Lyndsey Simpson, Founder and CEO of 55/Redefined, Gemma McCartney, Client Engagement Director at RTM and Raphael Frascogna, Head of Talent Acquisition at Content+Cloud.

Thank you to our panelists on the day, for sharing engaging professional and personal stories and for providing invaluable insight for businesses to take away and action.

Here’s 6 actions that not only businesses can implement, but steps we can all take to remove ageist stereotypes and break down bias


1. Check your own bias & language

“I’m having a senior moment”

Unintentional or not, it's important that we don't perpetuate our own ageism by saying off the cuff ageist statements or 'harmless' jibes about age.

“When are you going to retire?”

Often we can make assumptions about someone's career intentions, believing that people around the age of 50 all are wanting to slow down, take on less activities, and begin the decline into a quieter lifestyle. Research has shown that actually this stage of life can represent the complete opposite - an opportunity to start something new or take on a new personal or professional challenge, so by asking presumptive questions about retirement we are in fact fuelling the stereotype.


2. Invest in technical reskilling and training

“90% of this demographic believe they have the skills to be able to transfer job roles and industry, if someone will provide them with technical retraining. However, only 35% of employers are prepared to hire someone over 50 that requires technical skilling and retraining.”

The ‘lift and shift’ mentality of hiring the same person, in the same company, moving them slowly up the promotion ladder, for a little bit more salary, to go and do the same job that they’ve done for the last 30 years - needs to change. The over 50 demographic don’t fit that process and they don't want to, they want to completely shake it up, drastically change career paths, from an accountant to a florist or a customer adviser to a videographer.

If you're an employer who’s prepared to retrain, you can access a wealth of talented, dedicated people.


3. Create flexible ways of working

Since the pandemic, the majority of workers are now familiar and have experienced adapted, hybrid and remote ways of working, so this has come to be expected, rather than a unique offering from an employer.

It goes without saying that different stages of life, require different environments and bring different demands. A new parent or carer is going to need different working arrangements, to a fresh out of university graduate, or an apprentice. Yet when it comes to age and the different challenges this can bring, everyone seems to be grouped into the same bucket.

There are many initiatives out there to support flexible working, from flexitime, job sharing, staggered hours and so on. So it's important for businesses to remember it's not just about providing work on a permanent basis but what are the opportunities you can create for short, fast, stints of work?

Bringing back retired professionals is a hugely beneficial scheme for both employees and managers, since they already understand the role and bring a wealth of expertise. For just a few weeks of reskilling, (something which any new starter would be provided with), a former retiree can top up their pension, add to their savings, and most invaluably, keep their toe in a profession they enjoy.

4. Data, insight & education

By informing yourself, your colleagues, your peers, and your families with information, over time we can start to effect real change in the workplace based on real data and facts - not assumptions.

Whether it’s reading a report, answering a survey, requesting some demographic data, taking part in a study or attending an ageism talk, information is power and will lead to stronger decision making within your business.


5. Give your 50+ cohort a voice

While cycle to work schemes, childcare vouchers, or wellness for specific demographics are all fantastic reward initiatives that many employees will benefit from, they may not always be relevant to the needs and wants of your over 50 workforce.

Without giving older workers a platform to voice what they'd like from their employer, there is an unspoken apprehension to speak up, for fear of being seen to be lacking in energy, pace, or ambition.

When it comes to Employer Value Proposition (EVP), rewards, and benefits, businesses don’t need to guess and make assumptions at what their 50+ cohort want. By simply asking, you'll most likely find their requests are simple, reasonable adaptations e.g. flexible working options - and subsequently, businesses will retain these workers for many years longer than if they're continued to be ignored.

6. Change the recruitment process

Recruitment processes have often been designed for mass recruitment, and are heavily tech automated - particularly appealing to millennials. Over 50s are driven by choice, and while often unfairly labelled as luddites, they want to work for employers who they can have a real conversation with, and explore the option of reskilling upfront, instead of having to fill out a 5-page digital application, followed by further online verbal reasoning or psychometric tests.

By simply providing an email address where they can send a CV and a cover note, or providing a phone number where they can have a conversation to explore current opportunities, this immediately opens up a more inclusive recruitment process.

Get in touch with our experts

RTM have a wealth of experience in building and delivering recruitment solutions to attract, engage and hire the talent to shape your digital future.

For further information on how RTM can help support your businesses’ diversity and growth goals, you can email our Client Engagement Director, Gemma McCartney directly, or get in touch with our RTM team.

Authored by
Katey-Rose Gregory
Content Marketing Manager

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