WIP Episode 317 Heather Tinsley-Fix

Unconscious bias against older workers hurts the employee and the employer

A conversation with Heather Tinsley-Fix, AARP senior advisor on Employer Engagement

In this episode of Work in Progress, I am joined by Heather Tinsley-Fix, senior advisor, employer engagement for AARP to talk about the aging workforce and why it is good business for employers to actively hire and promote older workers.

Refusing to hire a person or to promote them based on age is absolutely against the law.

Still, recent studies show that adults over the age of 40, including a vast majority of baby boomers, believe their age puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to finding a job, or limits their career opportunities.

Tinsley-Fix says the most recent AARP survey shows that 64% of workers over the age of 40 have felt or experienced age discrimination or ageism at work.

“It’s largely subtle because it’s unconscious. Most people have ideas about what ‘old’ means. Anyone who is older than they are is old. A 20-year-old thinks a 40-year-old is old and a 40-year-old thinks that a 60-year-old is old.

“But, in terms of feeling it at work, it can be slight comments like ‘I’m having a senior moment.’ It can be things like suddenly getting flat or even negative performance reviews when nothing in your performance has changed.

“It can be being passed over for innovative, or exciting, or challenging opportunities. It can be assuming that you’re not interested in learning new skills. Companies might be really pushing upskilling to the younger parts of their workforce and not to the older parts of their workforce.”

One of the perpetual and persisting stereotypes in society is that older adults are afraid of the changes in technology that continue to shape how we live, play, and work.

“It’s one of the most entrenched myths about older people – they’re ‘not good with technology,’ which is just ridiculous. Not only does AARP research show that 50-year-olds and up are just as active and avid consumers of technology as younger folks, we know that at work plenty of workers are able to adapt and move with the times and adopt to new platforms. It’s frustrating that it’s so entrenched and that it’s still there, but it does persist and it’s not true,” says Tinsley-Fix.

She emphasizes that these misperceptions about older workers and jobs seekers – including their “fear” of new technology – impact their ability to find work or get a promotion.

And its not only the employees that are suffering. Employers have been saying for years that they are having a hard time finding talent for certain jobs. They are missing out on the skills and talent of this growing part of the workforce.

Right now, about one-in-five workers is over the age of 55 and that is expected to grow to one-in-four as baby boomers continue to decide to stay in or reenter the labor market because they have to do so financially, or they simply want to do so.

Tinsley-Fix goes on to outline the skills the older worker brings to the job and the advantage an employer that embraces a multigenerational workforce has over their competition.

You can listen to the podcast here, or download and listen wherever you get your podcasts. You can also find it on our Work in Progress YouTube channel.

Episode 317: Heather Tinsley-Fix, senior advisor on employer engagement, AARP
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Theme Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4
Transcript: Download the transcript for this episode here
Work in Progress Podcast: Catch up on previous episodes here

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