‘Experience Discrimination’ may be ‘Age Discrimination’

Dec 03, 2013

Hiring is an organizational action, designed to shape and change a culture over time for the better.  Every new hire, termination, and promotion is shaping the culture of the organization.  Finding the right fit is a critical element of the human resource function, however, in some cases finding fit on some attributes may be ‘excluding’ some of the strongest resources and experience-based employees.

One organization I recently heard about sought a youthful culture, energy and non-complacency.  As a result they established hiring criteria to ensure they captured this.  They did not state that they would not hire anyone over a specific age, but did identify they would not consider any one with more than 10 years’ experience, not 10 years in a specific role but 10 years total.  Essentially this criterion precluded anyone over the age of 35 without being discriminatory.

The lesson in this example is that culture and experience need to work in unison and balance to create greater value in an organization and, more importantly, for long term succession planning and knowledge retention.  A youthful and energized culture is not a function of age; it is a function of passion for an organization, mission, vision and people.  Some of the most energized people I have seen are the ones who have been with an organization for 10-20 years and still find purpose and passion within the organization.

A second trend in experience exclusion is in understanding what drives an employee or candidate.  Not everyone is looking to move forward in their careers for their entire lives.  Over time, the climb up the ladder is no longer the priority but those with significant experience are excluded from positions as having too much experience or the ‘role too junior.’  This can be a significant error on the part of an organization, missing the opportunity to capture experience and loyalty based on a common assumption that everyone wants to advance.  With the aging population this assumption has to be acknowledged and broken as the Boomers and Generation X approach an adjustment period of work/life balance.

Many organizations feel the need for eager youthful energy that the early to mid-career level workers can contribute, but these up and coming leaders are also more apt to leave the organization after a couple of years and take their skills and energy to another organization.  The older more experienced employees are more likely to be loyal, be productive more quickly and maintain that productivity over time.

For organizations and hiring functions there is a need to better understand what the organization needs, not just what a manager wants.  Quite often departments cannot see the strategic value of diversity, balance and experience in an organization.  Often they are blinded by ‘fit’ for themselves, not the organization, missing the importance of the long term impact on the entire organization.  Most acknowledge that age discrimination is illegal, but for many, they don’t even realize that is what they may be doing when they are identifying ‘experience discrimination.’

Darryl Moore


Written by Dr. Darryl Moore
Executrade – Your Recruitment Specialists

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