Is ageism real, or just a miscommunication?
Discrimination based on a person’s age (ageism) is a problem in New Zealand—there’s no doubt older workers struggle to find employment—but the cause is more likely due to a generational disconnect. Kathryn Sandford, who is the CEO of New Zealand recruitment and career coaching company Move to More (M2M), said workers over 50 could be […]
Discrimination based on a person’s age (ageism) is a problem in New Zealand—there’s no doubt older workers struggle to find employment—but the cause is more likely due to a generational disconnect.
Kathryn Sandford, who is the CEO of New Zealand recruitment and career coaching company Move to More (M2M), said workers over 50 could be more successful if they learn to bridge the generational divide.
“There will be more opportunities for over 50s moving forward because the workforce is getting older and good quality employees are in short supply. But to get the jobs, you need to demonstrate that you are still relevant.”
According to the Retirement Commission, New Zealand’s workforce is ageing rapidly. In 1986, the employment rate among people aged 55-64 was 49%. By 2017 that rate had jumped to 82%. The Commission showed that by 2035 about 400,000 people aged 65+ would represent about 33% of the workforce.
“As in every field, mixing young workers with little experience and older workers with plenty of knowledge can be an amazing business strategy. The two cohorts will trade skills for energy and get the job done.”
However, Sandford said generational gaps could also be an obstacle if there are no clear official guidelines for both old and young workers to understand each other.
“What some people decry as ageism is more often a disconnect between generational expectations, often aggravated by inexperienced managers who lack an awareness of the dynamic.
“I believe communication issues are one of the main causes of ageism. Different generations communicate differently.”
Sandford (pictured below) said where employers sometimes fall short is seeing what workers over 50 can bring to a business beyond just their skills. As the New Zealand workforce ages, employers who crack this problem will stand out and attract high-quality talent of all ages.
Older workers find themselves at an unfair disadvantage when applying for new roles because they need help understanding technology at the intuitive level of younger staff or because their depth of work experience can be tough to describe on a CV.
“Unfortunately, and I see this often, younger hiring teams stick to the script by asking irrelevant questions of older candidates: ‘have you got a degree?’ ‘Or where do you see yourself in five years?’
“Those questions are fine for someone in their twenties, but for someone over 50 who has been in the workforce longer than the young HR screener has been alive, it can be an unnecessary brick wall,” Sandford said.
She offered an example of a man who worked for 20 years in a family business that employed 150 staff before travelling overseas. Upon returning to New Zealand, he found it difficult to land a job.
“The recruitment teams were very young and did not know how to ask good questions. Recruiting companies were also polite, but they needed to learn how to advise him.
“The man had plenty of experience, but it appeared to mean nothing. Once he learned that polishing his CV would only get him so far, he worked on his presentation skills, knowing that he had to bridge that generational gap and show what he was capable of,” Sandford said.
Sandford offered some tips for both older job candidates and employers.
1. Invest in yourself.
For older workers, a CV with a long history of experience can be overwhelming for an employer hoping to answer their most important question: can the candidate do the job? Sandford said older workers must refrain from expecting the CV to sing the full tune and should focus on the value they bring.
“Invest in getting clear about your personal brand, who you are and what you are about. The job search is always more of a struggle at any age if you lack direction,” Sandford said.
Sandford advised that employers and older employees attempt to see things from the other’s perspective. For example, an employer might have a well-justified bias that older workers are more expensive due to their time in the field.
“On the other hand, older employees might think they ‘know it all’ due to their experience, which will signal to an employer that they aren’t willing to learn. If a workplace operates with new technology, that can be a red flag for an employer. It’s important to step back and gain perspective,” Sandford said.
3. Added extras
An intelligent manager will understand that older employees could offer far more than what their CV suggests. Hiring a more senior worker is not just about getting the job done; it is about hiring all their life experience, tips, and strategies they have gained over the decades.
“Employers and managers are advised to see older workers as assets beyond what they can do daily. Have that conversation with them before hiring and try agreeing on mentorship and how they could plug into the company by offering guidance to younger staff.
“Companies that figure out how to deploy their most experienced people effectively will gain respect in the marketplace and certainly improve their bottom line,” Sandford said.
For more information visit: https://m2m.co.nz/