- Jo Faragher
A new report from the Institute of Leadership and Management has revealed that workers over the age of 50 are still being overlooked for promotions, despite having enormous amounts of knowledge and experience to offer.
The institute found that managers tended to rate older team members lower for their enthusiasm to develop and learn than their younger counterparts. This was despite over-50s rating their own levels of keenness to learn at 94%, compared to a 46% rating from managers. The irony is that there is a huge skills gap crying out to be filled by enthusiastic workers with experience and the maturity to make decisions.
In fact ILM’s head of applied research and policy, Kate Cooper, called this ‘organisational ageism’, since workers over 50 were not offered the same opportunities for promotion or development as their younger colleagues, often because managers assumed they wouldn’t want them.
We all know that legislation alone is not enough to challenge such unconscious biases or preconceptions, but managers and recruiters alike need to challenge these thoughts and consider the bigger picture.
Another recent survey by Hay Group found that the majority of graduates thought soft skills as unimportant in getting ahead, with more than half finding them a barrier to getting work done. Despite managers valuing these skills, younger workers placed more importance on technical skills – and arguably the recruitment and promotion process will support this because it will often only consider a narrow tick-box list of achievements.
By contrast, more experienced workers have these essential skills in spades; they are better leaders and communicators, as well as great teachers and collaborators. Placing more emphasis on the more rounded set of attributes older workers can offer, and challenging assumptions that they lack ambition or are willing to learn, is not only desirable but necessary as the working population gets older.