With the way some companies shy away from hiring older workers, you might think the age of tech is only for millennials and that candidates over 40 simply aren’t wanted.
Is it because hiring managers suspect that older workers might be less able to adapt to cutting-edge technology? Or do employers want to contain costs by avoiding the higher pay levels typically commanded by employees with more experience?
The answers aren’t clear, but with shortages of STEM talent worsening, employers need to get past ageism or other barriers that might cause them to overlook qualified job candidates from any demographic group.
Competitive Pay Needed
"There are perceptions that tech companies want to pay less for talent, and that many demand longer hours of employees, which may deter older job applicants," said Raj Mukherjee, a senior vice president at Indeed, the online jobs site.
The appearance that organizations are unwilling to pay competitive rates for the tech skills they need can affect their ability to attract and retain talent, regardless of age, according to Mukherjee. "Companies being more transparent about their needs can eliminate this perception," he said.
The problem doesn’t stop once the employee is hired. In a survey of 1,011 currently employed U.S. tech workers, Indeed found that 43 percent were worried about losing their job due to their age. And 18 percent said they worry about it "all the time," which could be a drain on productivity.
It Takes All Kinds
Organizations might be missing out on potential talent by not encouraging diversity, according to a study from recruiting firm Modis. The survey of 1,500 decisionmakers in the STEM field found that 58 percent of those over 55 think that age disparity is an issue, while those under 25 feel that gender disparity is the top problem in creating a diversified tech team.
Companies might hesitate to market a job toward older workers because younger employees are typically seen as digital natives, having grown up with technology, according to Trent Beekman, president of recruitment solutions at Modis.
However, Beekman said, keeping up with constant changes in technology can be difficult at any age, and employees need to have a futuristic outlook regardless of how old they are.
A higher age shouldn’t be equated with a tendency to slack off or coast at work. The over-40 demographic of nonmanagers in tech are increasingly likely to get top-performer ratings, a study from Visier found. The results suggest that maturity and experience are important drivers of high performance, according to the workforce analytics company.
A Fix for Any Age
How companies post a job can affect the type and quality of candidates, Mukherjee said. "With today’s job descriptions, it is often hard for a job seeker to get a good read on whether they are a good fit. Worse yet, commonly used language can discourage women, older workers, and other groups from applying for jobs when otherwise they would be a great fit," he said.
There is a talent shortage, and companies will have to get creative to attract and retain the people they need, according to Beekman. Employees of all ages are looking for traditional benefits, but companies that offer things such as flextime, parental leave, and time off for community service will have a leg up over the competition, he said.
"It’s the most aggressive talent landscape we’ve ever seen. Companies have to constantly look at what they offer," Beekman said.
Employers will have more success finding the talent they need if they focus on skills and offer a competitive salary and creative benefits, Beekman added. Combining those elements with an emphasis on diversity will not only increase the candidate pool, but attract and retain employees who seek a more inclusive environment, he said.
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