Ageism: why it's a good time to invest in senior talent

Did you know that unemployment among the over-55s in Spain has tripled since 2008 to more than half a million people? The worst thing is that 75% of these professionals believe they will never work again because there is no room for them in the labour market. This is one of the most visible consequences of ageism or age discrimination. A phenomenon that has gained momentum in recent decades, driven by the rapid advance of technology and the increasingly widespread belief that as we grow older, we become incapable.

While the term has become much more prominent in the field of employment, it encompasses all those beliefs, stereotypes and prejudices that discriminate against people on the basis of their age. Dismissing older people because they "don't understand technology", "don't have the skills that are valued today" or "don't perform well enough" is also a form of ageism that, while often more unnoticed, takes a heavy emotional toll on older people and limits business growth.

Why should we curb ageism in business?

We live in a society that values immediacy, creativity and the results that young people can offer. A world that considers young talent to be the present and the future and, therefore, focuses on promoting it and, on the contrary, increasingly neglects senior talent because it believes that older people have nothing to contribute because they are not adapted to modern times. However, what we overlook is that it is precisely this senior talent that has laid the foundations of many of the companies that exist today and therefore possesses invaluable wisdom and experience.

Allowing or encouraging ageism in companies is a way of denying or ignoring all that senior talent has contributed and can continue to contribute to an organisation. It is a way of silencing what older people have to say and secluding them as if they were useless to a society where they no longer have anything to offer. The problem is that in doing so, we further exacerbate the effects that ageing can have on self-image and damage the self-esteem and self-worth of these professionals. They will begin to believe that they really have nothing to contribute, entering a vicious circle in which the more rejected they feel, the less they strive to continue to grow as people.

And while they probably bear the brunt of feeling undervalued, the truth is that this destructive and discriminatory cycle also drags down companies. An organisation that allows or encourages age discrimination in its workforce is a company with the drive and stamina of young talent but lacks the experience and wisdom of senior talent. This may open the door to the rapid growth that new technologies and market trends promise, but it may limit and/or bias its worldview and erase its past and history in one fell swoop.

In the long run, a company where ageism has taken hold is bound to have no clear essence, and no well-defined mission, as these are modified again and again in the relentless search for new young talent to adapt to an ever-changing world. In this way, it may gain a place in the market, but it will be unable to create a stable corporate brand over time that truly represents the vision of the organisation and its employees.

What senior talent can contribute to business growth

As we get older, we lose some cognitive skills. We find it harder to learn new knowledge because our minds slow down, and we have a poorer memory capacity and a slower intellectual speed. In addition, as we get older, we tend to stick more to the paths we have already travelled and to go for the solutions we already know, which can sometimes lead us to stagnate and limit our ability to adapt. However, not everyone experiences ageing the same way and not all cognitive changes are negative. If well harnessed, senior talent can also contribute to the growth of the company and its employees.

  • It gives authenticity to working relationships. The passing of the years gives us that psychological maturity that allows us to know ourselves better and to know what we want and what we don't want, which gives us the security and self-confidence we need to show ourselves as we are. This explains why older people tend to be more authentic in their relationships with their peers, as well as giving them a greater degree of sincerity, closeness, respect and trust.
  • It provides more informed solutions. With age, crystallised intelligence develops, a type of intelligence based on learning that, among other advantages, allows for more solid and well-founded solutions. This, together with the wisdom that comes from experience and the resilience that develops over the years, means that older people in the company can bring a different, more foresighted and cautious vision to projects, which, together with the renewed vision of young talent, can be the key to finding a balance.
  • It contributes to conflict resolution. Older people tend to develop better emotional intelligence, which means they have a special ability to analyse emotions, control their feelings and provide emotional support to their colleagues. In addition, over time, they also learn to be more tolerant, which can be an excellent asset for using senior talent as a resource to mediate conflicts in the company.
  • It fosters corporate commitment. Older professionals are more willing to commit to the company's vision and collaborate on a common goal since they have clearer goals and know what they want. This makes them more motivated about their work and more loyal to their job, thus reducing the risk of turnover within the workforce.

How do you tap into the experience of senior talent?

Investing in senior talent goes far beyond having a representation of older professionals in the workforce and management positions or having an equity plan in place to boost the recruitment of older people. It means fostering a more open, generationally diverse company culture that focuses on developing senior talent and harnessing all that it has to offer. How do we achieve this?

1. Commit to intergenerational teams. Creating multigenerational teams is an excellent way to involve senior talent in the organisation and encourage them to continue contributing to the company. In this way, you stimulate continuous feedback between younger and older professionals, in which young people teach them to adapt and work with new technologies, and older people contribute with their experience and knowledge—an excellent resource for boosting business growth.

2. Invest in training senior talent. Many companies give up when it comes to training senior talent. However, investing in their training is an excellent way to help them adapt to modern times and continue to foster their professional development. It is a good way to provide them with the knowledge and tools they need to improve their performance and bring out their best professional side.

3. Focus on strengths. When we think of senior talent, the first thing that comes to mind is their inability to adapt quickly to modern changes, learn to work with new technologies or take on new ways of working. However, if instead of focusing on their weaknesses, we focused on their strengths and what they have to offer the company, we would surely be able to use their experience and knowledge more.

4. Strengthen the commitment of young talent. Many young people believe that older people do not understand modern times and have already given their all in their profession, leading them to dismiss senior talent. However, if we really want to take advantage of what older professionals have to offer, it is essential to encourage young people to look at senior talent from a different perspective, to open their minds to what they can bring to the table and to commit to finding common ground that can be mutually beneficial.

5. Encourage work-life balance. Having a personalizad work-life balance plan tailored to the needs of each employee can be a good way to ease the involvement and commitment of senior talent in the company. In this way, employees will be able to better combine their work and domestic responsibilities and obligations with their personal care, which will relieve them of the heavy burden they carry on their shoulders, making them feel more committed and helping improve their performance.

It is never too late to recapture senior talent and take advantage of all it has to contribute to the company. However, suppose we really want to nurture senior talent and use it to enhance the company's growth. In that case, it is essential to go one step further, get rid of the stereotypes and beliefs that come with it and open our minds to embrace what experience and the wisdom that comes with age can bring.

If you want to improve the emotional well-being of your employees, we can help you.

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