An age-old problem: age bias in talent management

Are you too young, too old or too close to parenting age to be deemed an ideal candidate for development or promotional pathways? What about succession planning or flexible working options?

If you think unconscious age bias isn’t a factor in an organisation’s workforce planning, think again. A survey by recruiting experts Hays of 1,516 people across Australia & New Zealand shows more than seven in ten believe an employee’s age can be a factor in talent management decisions.

While 11 per cent of employers admitted that the age of an employee impacts what works for them in talent management terms, another 60 per cent said their age is ‘sometimes’ a factor.

Just 29 per cent said an employee’s age has no impact on talent management decisions.

As difficult as it can be to acknowledge, unconscious bias isn’t always sensible or based on reason, yet it influences our decisions. This bias can work against employees of any age. For instance, one manager may unconsciously question an older worker’s energy, innovation and long-term commitment, while another may unconsciously question a younger worker’s stability, capability and maturity.

The solution is simple: as part of your talent management process sit down with each employee individually and ask them about their career goals, ambitions and training & development needs.

This helps to remove your assumptions about a person from your talent management decisions. It may also help you identify your biases if you weren’t previously aware of them.

After all, everyone is unique with their own goals and ambitions. So rather than make decisions based on generational assumptions, link each individual employees’ potential with your talent management strategy and organisational needs. 

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Comment by wayne faulkner on May 12, 2017 at 10:56

Good stuff Eliza - as you say there are many  biases in play

Here are some comments typically directed to older job candidates;

- you are too experienced

- you'd be bored

- there probably aren't enough challenges for you in this job

- you'd probably not be a good 'fit'

- well our demographics suggest you might look elsewhere

- how do you get along with younger colleagues?

- do you have the stamina for this job?

- when do you think you might retire?

- are you confronted by the generation gap at work?

ALL ARE CODE FOR AGE BIAS

best - wayne

Comment by Eliza Kirkby on May 17, 2017 at 9:34

Thanks for your comment Wayne. It’s so important to recognise that each individual person has their own distinct and personal motivations, career goals and ambitions. We should never assume.

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