The Grumpy Old Man

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....Age Discrimination in the Workplace Recruitment Process....

....The long term problems of age discrimination in the work place and un-employment for the over fifties....

25 years ago when Grumpy was made redundant he was conscious of a worship of "yoooff" purely for the sake of its age. Frequently, in the employment seeking process he felt that age was the "job offer" decider, rather than the candidates experience or appropriateness for the "job in question".

At age 49, (and a half as Adrian Mole would insist on adding) he remembers thinking "if I don't get a job in the next six months it will be an uphill task". How right he was. As regular readers of his site will know, the number of job applications he made was in thousands.

But you may ask, what's prompted the boring old fart to raise this question yet again?

On an intermittent basis, but with alarming frequency, Grumpy comes across articles bemoaning or talking about how difficult it is for the over 50s to secure employment. It was only a couple of weeks ago that an article appeared in the Irish Independent. It was clear that the journalist was just "writing a piece" as when I contacted her the silence of the response was deafening. more recently, it was the turn of the Daily Telegraph, 'Reader's Letters', with a number of letters on the topic.

State Pension entitlement age in the UK is already being progressively increased. If the over 50s are already having great difficulty in finding useful and valuable employment, what are they going to be doing? Grumpy would suggest that this age of entitlement increase is purely a ruse to apparently reduce the bill for state pension.

Some two years ago, Grumpy read about a 51-year-old Personal Assistant going to the lengths of handing out copies of her CV to people leaving the Bank station on the London Underground in an effort to secure employment.

The above represents a few examples of a growing and very serious timebomb brewing in the British workforce. Grumpy will avoid the personal psychological, confidence and self respect aspects of the problem because, even after 25 years, it is still extremely painful and emotional for him to talk about them.

Apart from the individual personal problems this scenario enforces, it is an absolutely appalling waste of resource and the investment made by one's family and the nation in the first 20 odd years of his life. During that time he is supported by family and the state, for the following 45 years one should be providing for his own family and the wealth of the nation. For this 45 years to be curtailed is an appalling waste of developed manpower, basic resource, wealth of knowledge, experience and native cunning, all valuable tools in the business of making a living and supporting the family, together with the national and international economies.

Nowadays it is absolutely crucial that the youngsters start to listen to some of this advice and do something about this and other catastrophes waiting to happen such as global warming (if it's not already too late). Regular readers of Grumpy's site will know that he sometimes talks in riddles or philosophies and in this instance he is reminded of the axiom "when we are twenty, we know it "all", when we are fifty, we realise that the only "all" we know is actually "bugger all". Don't forget Grumpy's been there himself, he still remembers life as a cocky twenty-year-old when life was very black-and-white whereas at fifty he remembers life as complicated. The skill then was in navigating through the interminable murky fog!

But what can be done about this. Ethnic members on FTSE 100 company boards can be counted, easy. But how in the world do we combat what are almost subjective decisions being made by, let's face it, all and sundry in the recruitment situation. It is almost like trying to combat religious prejudice and by gum there is enough of that around and it's close to almost everybody in the world today. The bottom line is that the interviewer is invariably looking for a "junior" and I am sure there is invariably a subconscious side that surreptitiously ponders the question "is this person technically superior to me? In a few years he might be able to do my job better than me?" The natural extension to this thought being "if I recruited him, will he be after my job?" (This surely represents an indication of personal insecurity!) Grumpy does recall in his younger days at an interview being asked the standard question "what do you see yourself doing in three years time?" Grumpy rather cheekily replied "I must confess, your job doesn't seem too bad at all!" You may say surprisingly, but Grumpy was offered the vacancy, and three years later was doing the Interviewer's job. The Interviewer having been promoted!

The only way we can combat this ageism (like the religion analogy) is through education, so that support and guidance from more senior members within the company or community.

As a final aside on a somewhat lighter note, I do recall when I was in management, recruiting a 55-year-old to my company. At the interview I was very frank with him and said that I believed the post we had available was relatively junior and potentially would only last between 2 and 3 years. After this period, it was quite possible that his services would be dispensed with. His response was that 2 to 3 years would be great, as his wife was fed up with him being under her feet around the house! I may have been lucky, but he took to the job like a duck to water, needed very little training and was still working for the company 10 years later. The reason for this story is to illustrate that the more mature employee will potentially stay in the job longer than the 30-year-old whiz kid. My own experience (born out by discussions with Personnel Managers) is that to recruit a member of staff can cost a company the best part of, what must now be, approaching a six-figure sum. Frequently they only stay for 2 to 3 years, with those years being added very grandiosely (dare I say exaggeratedly) to their CV. In the case above, my man may have cost this six-figure sum, but the company didn't have to pay out that sum another three or four times to get a loyal member of staff for a period of 10 years. Ergo, at the end of the day, the company was in front.

There is actually a much deeper and more insidious side of the problem of ageism and that is the overall national competitiveness. If one looks at other developed nations around the world it is easy to see that some cultures actually revere the wisdom, experience and knowledge held by the older, more mature citizen. Certainly this is the case when one looks at, for example, Japan. The wisdom and experience of the elderly Japanese is always sought and thought of very highly. Perhaps just this approach may have been a factor in the economic success of post-war Japan.

It seems incredible that the country feels it necessary to import talent in the guise of immigrants when there is a huge resource of very able, knowledgeable talent, already in "the system" keen to get stuck in with great loyalty for their new company. So Recruiters, tap into this resource, employ the more mature candidate and don't assume that because they are over fifty, they are over the hill. Perhaps the Recruiter should also remember that we are all in the same queue, which moves inexorably forwards, and eventually he, himself, could be "on the other side of the table".

Finally, there are huge and far reaching personal, company and national financial ramifications resulting directly from the current approach to recruitment. To more..... on the financial ramifications click here which will take you to "life 18".