Baby boomers are still working, getting ready to retire, just as Gen Z is entering the workforce. And stuck in between are Millennials and Gen X, meaning that at any one time, most workplaces feature four generations! If you handle it right, such age diversity can be a positive characteristic, full of sage advice and wisdom and innovations and ideas. But if you don’t welcome the diversity, your company culture will be a mess, and you’ll set yourself up for interpersonal conflicts and lawsuits. Here are four tips to avoid age discrimination in your workplace.
Compose fair job descriptions
As you’re crafting descriptions for a job opening, don’t use any words that might hint at someone’s age. Even words like “young,” “energetic,” or “fresh” can seem discriminatory like you’re favoring someone from Gen Z. Instead, look for candidates who are passionate, driven, and motivated characteristics that don’t depend on age or generation.
Design the right application
Your entire hiring process should be as fair as possible and shouldn’t ask for any unnecessary information, like age (or gender, ethnicity, orientation, etc.). Don’t veer off-topic during interviews into conversations that might hint at an age, so keep your questions fair and appropriate. A friendly, tangential dialogue about who you knew in college, for example, might inadvertently reveal a candidate’s age. Remember that all applicants should be asked the same questions, and you should have a predetermined list of assessment criteria so no one can complain of bias.
Carefully select your word choice
Be careful with the words you use to describe your aging employees—and yourself if you’re one of the older ones, too! Even if you’re just joking, using such language can cause unconscious biases from others who, as a result, might start to minimize opinions and feedback from people who have been labeled “old fashioned” or some other description. And avoid stereotypes that support generational differences—don’t assume that your older employees know nothing about technology and don’t like change or that your younger ones embrace technology and radical ideas.
Know that retirement isn’t a given
Just because people are of retirement age doesn’t mean they want to retire. They might enjoy the work they do, or they might not be financially stable enough to do it. So as your employees start nearing that age, don’t start planning their retirement party. You can’t force anyone to retire, and you shouldn’t even ask them if they’re ready to. Everyone has the right to work and shouldn’t be treated any differently just because of their age.
Build your company culture
For more tips on how to create and build a company culture that supports all types of diversity, check out our website.