While not in contract I tend to increase my visits to the gym. This tends to be two or three times a week either for a couple of dozen lengths in the pool, in a structured exercise class, and frequently one followed by the other. The reward is relaxing coffee afterwards which is where you often bump into one or more of the ‘regulars’.
So what’s the link between this little nugget of personal diary and demographics?
A conversation between myself and a couple of regulars meandered from the usual minutiae of the daily soap opera to my own contract status. I indicated that economic activity was an increased level compared with a few years ago, unemployment was lower and opportunities greatly increased; 2016 looked a lot better than 2010 despite the gloomy soundbites starting to emerge from No 11 Downing Street. This seemed to act as a catalyst for the parent of a banking employee in Manchester, to relay a trial of ‘recruitment horror’.
The young manager, formerly an ex-Big 4 management consultant, needed to recruit another manager for his banking team. He had commissioned an agency with a specification and they had returned with about a dozen CVs. Alas, the CVs were not what was required; they were either “over-qualified people in their fifties” or younger but inexperienced and not right for the role. He had complained to the agency for going ‘off-spec’ but had not had a response. The complaint story had obviously been relayed to his parent but instead of encouraging flexibility the parent had suggested that he did not want “someone in their fifties coasting along to retirement”, and anyway, “would a person in their fifties take instructions from someone in their thirties?” The story then veered back towards the agency. I interjected that the agency could not legally discriminate on an age basis and that the employment situation was such, that they probably had little choice. 2016 was not 2010, there was far more work around.
The problem of course was not the choice or quality of candidate but the fact that they were predominantly older. A mix of the fear that someone with more experience could be a threat and the prejudice of perception, older workers don’t work as hard. As with every age group there are some that work harder than others, although in the case of older workers it may well be that some just work a little smarter. Having undertaken performance improvement projects for many years it’s often the case that additional hours don’t enhance productivity but better planning, processes and reporting typically do.
As a more experienced worker the story was uncomfortable listening. A major bank, branding itself as an ethical leader, appeared to be endorsing age discrimination filtering it through an agency. It looked like the point agencies have made about employers coercing agencies into age discrimination could be true. But perhaps more disturbing was the attitude of the parent of the person recruiting. She was already in retirement and seemed happy to endorse these archaic perceptions and encourage another generation to hold them.
Meanwhile, governments across the world introduce later retirement ages and toothless age discrimination legislation. Organisations generally still don’t seem to get it. The reality of an ageing population is a current and growing issue. Spoilt by six or seven years of the post-banking crash economy, where there were dozens chasing every application they have not adjusted to current conditions, even less so to the ageing population. If there are more CVs with people over the age of fifty in your inbox it’s simply a reflection of the fact that there are more experienced people currently available.
Organisations need to adapt if they want to survive these changes. If they don’t their ageing customer base soon will, perhaps with their feet. Age discrimination is very much at the coal face of change management. It looks like there is a lot of work to do before this final, and probably greatest, shibboleth of prejudice falls.
(24 hours after writing this the Sunday Times reported that the ‘ethical’ bank had been ‘Rapped by the Ombudsman’ for age discrimination in its mortgage business. I guess if they are prepared to this to their customers it looks like an institutionalised age prejudice culture. Many companies claim to employ older workers but fewer actually hire them, and there is a difference. Thank goodness for contracting!)