It’s no secret that we live in a youth-obsessed society. From fashion to technology, everything seems to be geared toward the younger generation. And the workplace is no exception. There is a growing trend of praising young achievers while dismissing older workers who have made significant contributions to their field.
This trend is not only unfair, but it’s also a missed opportunity. We’re losing out on the wealth of experience and knowledge that older workers bring to the table. And it’s not just a matter of principle, it’s also a matter of practicality. As the population ages, the number of older workers is increasing, and they’re staying in the workforce longer. It’s in our best interest to make the most of this valuable resource.
Yet, despite their potential, older workers face discrimination and bias in the workplace. They’re often passed over for promotions, or even laid off, simply because of their age. This is not only morally wrong, it’s also economically short-sighted. Keeping experienced workers on the job can be good for a company’s finances and for society as a whole.
I’ll explore the issue of ageism in the workplace, the benefits of retaining older workers, and the need to shift our perspective and policy to combat ageism and promote inclusivity. So, let’s take a closer look at why age ain’t nothing but a number, and why it’s time to celebrate the achievements of older workers.
“Young people are just smarter,”Mark Zuckerberg
The value of experience and knowledge
As the saying goes, “there’s no substitute for experience.” And when it comes to the workplace, this couldn’t be more true. Older workers have a lot of experience and knowledge that can’t be copied or replaced. They’ve been around the block, so to speak, and they’ve learned a thing or two along the way.
This knowledge and experience is particularly valuable in complex, high-stakes situations. Older workers have a depth of experience that allows them to navigate these situations with a level of skill and ease that younger workers simply can’t match. They’ve seen it all before and they know how to problem-solve more effectively.
Of course, there are those who argue that experience is overrated, and that new, fresh perspectives are more valuable in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world. But the truth is, there’s no reason we can’t have both. Experience and new ideas don’t have to be in conflict with each other. In fact, they can work well together. It’s all about finding the right balance.
Challenging the notion of reduced productivity and adaptability
One of the most common arguments against older workers is that they’re not as productive or adaptable as their younger counterparts. This is simply not true. Research has shown time and time again that older workers are just as productive as younger workers, if not more so. In fact, many older workers have developed valuable skills that are honed through years of experience, and are in fact, more productive.
And as for adaptability, older workers are often more adaptable than they’re given credit for. They’ve had to adapt to numerous changes in their field over the years, and they’ve developed a level of resilience and flexibility that can only come with experience. They may not be as tech-savvy as younger workers, but they can learn quickly and are often willing to do so.
The reality is that age is not a barrier to productivity or adaptability. To suggest otherwise is to reinforce harmful stereotypes and biases. It’s time to challenge these stereotypes and start recognising the value that older workers bring to the table.
What the data says about founders of startups
In the world of tech startups, the idea of the youthful, enterprising entrepreneur has long been romanticised. The likes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg — all of whom achieved incredible success at a young age — have only served to reinforce this notion. However, a new study has found that the average founder of the fastest-growing tech startups is actually around 45 years old. What’s more, 50-year-old entrepreneurs are twice as likely to have a runaway business success as their 30-year-old counterparts.
Despite these findings, there is still a bias toward younger entrepreneurs in the industry. Venture capitalists tend to put most of their money into younger founders. This could be because they have wrong ideas about how successful they will be or because they want a bigger stake in the companies they invest in. No matter what the reason is, this bias makes it less likely that an investment will work out because it consistently favours younger entrepreneurs. It could also affect the direction of growth in the industry.
These results should give hope to older business owners who might be having doubts because of their age. Younger founders may benefit from being more creative and having less experience in an industry, but their older counterparts will do better if they have the opposite traits.
As the study’s lead researcher, Benjamin Jones, points out, older entrepreneurs have had years to build their business, leadership, and problem-solving skills, as well as to accumulate the social and financial capital needed to get a startup off the ground. So, perhaps it’s time for the tech industry to re-evaluate its biases and recognise the value that older entrepreneurs can bring to the table.
Examples of great success at an older age
One of the best ways to disprove the idea that older workers are less valuable than their younger counterparts is to show examples of successful older workers. There are many examples of people who made important contributions to their field even when they were old.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court at the age of 60 and continued to serve until she passed away at the age of 87. Her sharp legal mind and years of experience helped make many of the Court’s most important decisions.
Iris Apfel: a fashion icon who is still a sought-after designer and model at the age of 100. Her unique style and personality have made her a beloved figure in the fashion world.
Eric Yuan: founded Zoom in 2011 at the age of 41, after previously serving as a vice president of engineering at Cisco Systems. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the videoconferencing platform has become an important way to work and socialise from far away.
Bob Parsons: GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons was 47 when he founded the web hosting company in 1998, and pushed through dwindling cash to find surprising success in the early 2000s.
Samuel L. Jackson: Samuel L. Jackson was a struggling actor for many years before he landed a breakout role in the movie “Jungle Fever” at the age of 43. He has since become one of the most recognisable and successful actors in Hollywood.
Colonel Harland Sanders: Sanders was an American businessman and founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). He started his business at the age of 65 and turned it into a multi-million dollar franchise.
These individuals are just a few examples of successful older people succeeding in their work and continuing to make significant contributions well into their later years. They demonstrate that age is not a barrier to success, and that experience and knowledge can be just as valuable as youth and energy.
Hidden biases and discrimination against older workers
Even though hiring and keeping older workers has many benefits, there is a lot of bias and discrimination against them at work. Ageism is a real and serious issue that affects millions of workers around the world.
One of the most common forms of ageism is the practise of passing over older workers for promotions or hiring younger workers instead. People often think that older workers are less productive, less flexible, or less able to learn new skills. But as we’ve seen, these assumptions are often unfounded.
Another form of ageism is the practise of laying off older workers to cut costs. This happens a lot in tech and media, which are two fields that value youth and energy. But the reality is that laying off experienced workers can actually be more costly in the long run, as it often results in the loss of valuable institutional knowledge and skills.
It’s important for employers and society as a whole to recognise and address, and promote inclusivity in the workplace. Only then can we truly celebrate the achievements of all workers, regardless of age.
Financial and social benefits of retaining older workers
Retaining older workers can have significant financial benefits for Australian companies. Companies can avoid the costs of hiring and training new workers if they keep the workers they already have. This is especially true in industries that require specialised skills or knowledge that can only be gained through years of experience.
Also, older workers in Australia can help develop the next generation of skilled professionals by mentoring and advising younger workers. This is especially important in trades and healthcare, where there aren’t enough people with the right skills.
Lastly, keeping older workers can be good for Australia’s health and well-being as a whole. Many older workers in Australia choose to keep working and staying active for longer, which can be good for their physical and mental health. In turn, this can make the healthcare system less busy and make society as a whole more productive and involved.
Of course, there are those who argue that there are drawbacks to retaining older workers in Australia. One common argument is that older workers are more expensive to employ, due to higher healthcare costs and the need for additional support. But research has shown that the costs of health care for older workers are often overestimated, and that keeping experienced workers can be worth more than any extra costs.
Another worry is that older workers might have trouble getting used to new technologies and ways of doing things. However, it’s important to remember that older workers in Australia are not a homogenous group and that many are quite tech-savvy. Also, working with people from different generations can help close any gaps in knowledge and skills, making the workforce more dynamic and productive.
Finally, there are those who argue that fresh perspectives are more valuable than experience in today’s fast-paced world. While there is certainly value in new ideas and approaches, it’s important to remember that experience and fresh perspectives are not mutually exclusive. Australian companies can get the most out of both experience and new ideas by making their workforces more open and diverse and valuing the contributions of older workers.
Ageism is a real problem in the workplace, and it’s time to do something to stop it. Older workers bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table, and we’re missing out on their potential if we continue to undervalue and discriminate against them. By being aware of and working on our biases, promoting inclusion, and recognising the accomplishments of older workers, we can make the workforce more lively and productive.
Let’s start by shifting our perspective on age and productivity. Age ain’t nothing but a number, and it’s time to challenge the notion that older workers are less productive or adaptable than their younger counterparts. By highlighting the value of experience and knowledge, we can start to see older workers in a new light.
Also, let’s not forget that older workers can help companies and society as a whole in important ways, both financially and socially. By keeping experienced workers, we can help people of all ages work together, give younger workers mentors and advice, and improve the health and well-being of society as a whole.
So, employers, let’s start valuing the contributions of older workers and creating more opportunities for them to succeed. As a society, let’s celebrate the achievements of older workers and recognise the important role they play in our economy and culture.
In the words of the famous comedian George Burns, “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” Let’s honour our older workers and show that age is not a barrier to success. It’s time to take advantage of the wealth of experience and knowledge that older workers bring to the table and make the workplace a better place for everyone.