Increasingly, over-50 candidates are becoming alienated from the recruitment market. And, with the Chartered Management Institute finding that just 42% and 18% of managers are open “to a large extent” to hiring candidates between 50-64 and over 64, respectively, it is easy to see why.
The consequence? A disenchanted section of the candidate market, and companies that are missing out on the benefits of a multi-generational workforce. In turn, this can help to inform the rising issue of economic inactivity in many over-50s, as it catalyses the decision for early retirement.
Employment law has, of course, evolved to ensure decisions actively based on age-related bias are removed from the recruitment process, but unconscious bias still exists and is a much harder challenge to overcome.
Let’s take a closer look at this…
Age Bias in Recruitment
Unconscious bias in recruitment is an issue; it can introduce unintentional discrimination, a lack of diversity in the workforce and adverse hiring outcomes.
The very fact that blind recruitment has arisen as a suggestion for recruitment processes in recent times, suggests that the recruitment sector itself realises how big of an issue that age-related unconscious bias is.
For the over-50 candidates, the issue is clear; many no longer feel that their skills are valued, and their age is hindering their ability to find work.
Some of the potential unconscious biases surrounding age recruitment are:
- Assuming that older candidates are not as ambitious as younger candidates
- Assuming that they will be retiring soon, so won’t want the job for long
- Assuming they are less physically or mentally capable
These assumptions lead to many over-50 candidates being excluded from the process without merit. With this scenario being repeated for many, we are at a stage where many of these candidates are simply becoming alienated from the recruitment market, and no longer feel valued or wish to participate.
The impact of many over-50s feeling undervalued can be assessed in a number of ways. Two of the most important are:
1. We are missing out on the benefits of a multi-generational workforce
Age diversity within the workforce is vitally important, for a number of reasons;
- It facilitates information sharing between age-groups – different worldviews and different perspectives are able to be shared, allowing for a more holistic understanding between them.
- Older, more experienced employees can help to accelerate the development of younger employees, through sharing tips and their perspective, as they have been working for longer – which means accelerated growth for companies.
- By neglecting over-50 employees, we are missing out on a wealth of knowledge, experience and skills that have compounded over decades. This simply cannot be replicated.
With a biased skew towards hiring only younger candidates, we miss out on a multitude of benefits that having a multi-generational workforce affords.
2. Early retirement and economic inactivity
We are seeing a rise in early retirement and economic activity. Around 10 million people of working age – between 18 and 64 – don’t have jobs and are economically inactive – meaning that they aren’t looking for jobs.
One million of these are people between 55 and 64 who have decided to retire early. While a large factor in this can be attributed to candidates choosing not to return to work following furlough during COVID, it can also be suggested that this is in-part due to the fact that they feel less valued, and feel as if they would struggle to find a job again due to unconscious bias and ageism.
The impact that this has on the economy is that it damages growth – without enough workers, companies can struggle to facilitate growth, which in turn inhibits the ability for the economy to grow.
Shifting the Landscape
This issue clearly needs to be combatted; but that cannot be done without a shift in mindset. As mentioned before, blind recruitment can be a good way to ensure that unconscious bias does not slip in to the recruitment process.
Beyond that, we need to re-embrace the multi-generational workforce by shining a light on the benefits of all age segments, and realising that they all have something to offer the workforce – not just the typically-labelled ‘hungry’ and ‘ambitious’ younger candidates.
Employers and recruitment services need to continue to educate on the impact of unconscious bias in recruitment, and continue to issue reminders of how employees of all ages can offer great value to the workforce.
For more information, this webinar on bias in recruitment, and the concept of blind recruitment from the CMI is a useful tool for hiring teams: