12 Ways to Eliminate Ageism and Be More Inclusive

November 15, 2018

12 Ways to Eliminate Ageism and Be More Inclusive

This is part 2 of a two-part blog series on ageism in the workplace. Read part 1 on ways ageism impacts your business.

Let’s discuss the various ways that you can proactively minimize the likelihood of ageism occurring in your business, better support inclusion, and help to create a thriving, multigenerational workplace.

Ways Your Business Can Mitigate Ageism and Be More Inclusive 
To help ensure that your organization is operating in compliance with federal and state employment laws, fostering an inclusive multigenerational workforce, and best supporting a strong and healthy employment brand, you’ll want to make a concerted effort to review your workplace for any potentially ageist practices and then implement necessary corrective measures. Actionable steps towards risk mitigation and fostering a more age-inclusive work environment can include the following:

  1. Take advantage of specialized assessments. These types of customized tools can be used to evaluate your organization’s culture, practices, and policies as they relate to older workers. This one from The Center on Aging & Work and AARP provides helpful insights and areas that your organization can benefit from improving.
  2. Evaluate the potential for bias within your organization. Various types of unconscious bias, including perception or in-group bias, may be adversely impacting the employment decisions made by your organization. Assess the potential for age discrimination as it relates to work assignments, job promotions, training opportunities, layoffs, and your termination process. Once identified, take necessary corrective action to minimize bias.
  3. Review and update your recruiting and selection processes. Mitigate opportunities for age discrimination by using age-neutral language in your organization’s job postings, eliminating questions asking for milestone dates such as dates of graduation on applications and/or in your applicant tracking system, standardizing and ensuring the same evaluation process is used for all job applicants, and using age-diverse interview panels whenever possible. In your recruiting strategy, include a commitment and specific initiatives related to building and maintaining a true multigenerational workforce. 
  4. Train hiring managers and recruiters in non-discriminatory hiring practices. Monitor and ensure that everyone involved in all phases of the recruiting process is up to date on current age discrimination laws. Focus applicant screening activities and job interviews on required skills and experience and not just perceived cultural fit. Educate against ageist assumptions such as older workers will only be around for a couple of years before they plan on retiring or that younger workers cost less to employ and are a better investment because they stay around longer. 
  5. Convey an age-inclusive company website and Internet presence. Regularly review and ensure that your company website and social media accounts are generationally age friendly. Pay close attention to the types of photos and language used so as to best demonstrate diversity in age as well as an inclusive workplace culture. If you have a dedicated careers section on your company website, be certain that messaging conveys your commitment to being an inclusive and multigenerational employer of choice.
  6. Build and foster a multigenerational workplace culture. Internally communicate the organization’s desire to operate with an age-diverse workforce. Educate employees in the benefits of having a multigenerational work environment. Make it a regular practice to visibly acknowledge and reward employee contributions irrespective of age whether that be at staff meetings, on company blogs, via internal social tools, on external social media, or other channels where your business shares positive employee news.
  7. Include age in your diversity and inclusion strategy. When considering diversity in the workplace, the focus is quite often on gender and race. While both of these aspects are important, including age as a dimension in your diversity and inclusion strategy is equally beneficial when it comes to cultivating a multigenerational workplace and minimizing the risk for age discrimination. Be forward thinking and age friendly in strategy development.
  8. Develop programs that support older workers. On the program front, what specifically will work for your business will be dependent upon factors such as the type of industry in which you operate and the size of your company. A great example is a Starbucks in Mexico that launched their first location staffed entirely with older workers ranging from 55 to 60 years of age. Another example is “returnship” programs geared toward senior-level professionals wanting to return to the workplace after a career break of two or more years. In these types of programs, older workers are given the opportunity to work on paid assignments and receive coaching and a mentor. Once your programs are effectively implemented, take advantage of the opportunity to showcase them in the careers section of your company website.
  9. Design and offer age-inclusive training opportunities. To stay engaged, workers need to have the opportunity to learn and grow no matter one’s age or stage in their career. Ensure that training and development activities are age-inclusive and made available to all employees. Doing so supports positive outcomes for both workers and your business.
  10. Provide cross-generational or reverse-age mentorships. These types of opportunities create a natural pathway for transferring knowledge amongst generations whether that be a seasoned professional teaching a younger worker how to develop executive presence or a Gen Z teaching a Baby Boomer how to navigate the latest technology apps. Offering cross-generational mentorships can help to increase productivity and improve workplace satisfaction and employee engagement within your business.
  11. Host age-inclusive employee events. When it comes to cultivating healthy workplace morale, mindfully hosting employee events and celebrations is key. Opt for company and/or team activities that are inclusive and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Activities like charity volunteer days, potlucks, barbeques, karaoke, costume contests, themed casual days, or white elephant gift exchanges can be fun and memorable while still being age friendly and appealing to many regardless of their generation. 
  12. Consider the design of your office. Is your office design welcoming to all workers and job seekers? Does it effectively support a variety of work styles and people demographics? If you have an open plan office, the design might initially give off a visually cool vibe but may also scream workplace playground or give the perception that you only hire young people. When it comes to working styles, it is easy to assume that older workers would expect to be provided with a private office. However, young Gen Z workers tend to prefer private work areas with some dedicated spaces for collaboration. Ensuring that your office design works well for a multigenerational workforce can make all the difference when it comes to productivity, communication, and inclusiveness. 

Bringing It All Together
Through awareness and strategic effort, there are various ways that organizations can minimize ageism in the workplace, mitigate risk, and foster greater inclusiveness. These include undertaking specialized assessments and evaluations geared toward age bias, providing recruiters and hiring managers with training on age discrimination laws, debunking myths and educating against unproven assumptions about older workers, building out your diversity and inclusion strategy to include age as an important component, reviewing and updating your employment practices, developing programs geared toward older workers, cultivating a mixed-age workforce, and designing a work environment that is inclusive and appealing to all workers. 

By fully capitalizing on the often under-recognized but highly valuable resources that older workers bring to the workplace, your business can be part of the solution to the long perpetuated issue of age discrimination. In doing so, you will also benefit from a stronger employment brand, increased bench strength, and greater diversity and inclusion which are all necessary components of a thriving, multigenerational workplace.

The Authors: 

Andrea Choate is a Chief People Officer and published author.