Challenges of an Aging Workforce in Tech

Tech workers over the age of 40 are finding it increasingly challenging to get—and retain—a job these days.

Visier, an analytics and workforce planning platform, ran a survey that found that Generation X’ers (those aged 34–51) are hired 33% less than their overall workforce representation. Millennials, on the other hand, represented 50% more than theirs.

This age discrimination sometimes extends way beyond the HR department and deep into the company culture. Workers over 40 might find themselves passed over for a promotion or coerced into retirement. Or their coworkers could barrage them with innocent-sounding, but hurtful comments about their age.

We’re going to look at a few examples of age discrimination that older Tech workers might face and things that companies can do to prepare themselves for the inevitable aging workforce.

Discrimination Examples

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) states that it’s illegal to discriminate against someone over the age of 40 in an employment environment. Despite this law, age discrimination still happens on a regular basis. Here are just a few examples of some biases that older tech workers can face:

Coworker Comments

“You’re over the hill.”

“Hurry it up, Grandpa.”

“You’re behind the times.”

While the above comments might be made in a playful tone of voice, there is often a hidden meaning and intent behind them. The recipients of these comments might grin and bear it, but it can have a serious adverse effect upon their morale, job performance, and even self-esteem.

Layoffs – Some companies will try to mask their age discrimination practices by performing a round of mass layoffs that usually only affect the older workers—and perhaps one or two younger workers who are not liked very well.

Work Overload – Other companies might try to force their older workers into retirement by giving them massive amounts of work or projects that were doomed to fail from the start. If the employee quits or retires on their own, the company doesn’t have to fire them.

How to Prepare Your Company  

Not all Tech companies discriminate against their workers. In fact, many of them value the experience that older workers bring to the table and go above and beyond in trying to accommodate them. Here are just a few ways you can prepare your company or department for an aging workforce:

Change the Company Culture – Change starts from within, and companies that wish to prevent their top talent from being discriminated against need to address the issue head-on. This is best accomplished by adopting new policies and changing the company culture such that it places more value on experience and wisdom than it does youth and innovation.

Training – As workers grow older, some of them neglect to keep up with the latest tech stacks. Companies can provide educational credits or allow workers to leave their job early to attend nighttime classes.

Workers that are encouraged and allowed to undergo on-the-job training will increase their knowledge, confidence, and tech stack. This can also significantly improve productivity and company morale.

Create New Roles – Another way companies can cater to their aging workforce is to create new internal roles that are specifically suited and tailored to their skills and knowledge. These cross-functional roles can help bridge the gap between legacy products/services and current offerings.

Sabbaticals – More and more people are opting to take what’s known as a “mini-retirement” in the middle of their career. If a company offers a sabbatical program, it can help prevent worker burnout, which not only affects those over 40 but many younger workers as well.

Invest in Training – Many companies are investing in training courses that educate their employees on how to improve their emotional intelligence. By enhancing their emotional IQ, workers will be better able to understand one another and communicate more efficiently. It also helps instill a sense of empathy, which can significantly cut down on age discrimination.

Hire Seasoned Workers – While older workers who are nearing retirement age might not be up-to-date on the latest technology, they offer other benefits that younger workers can’t. Their decades of experience and wisdom can help balance out the team and increase productivity.

The Inevitable Aging Workforce 

An aging workforce in the Tech industry is inevitable. Companies that recognize this and proactively prepare for it will be much better equipped to not only support their employees but take full advantage of the wealth of experience and knowledge that they bring to the table. A more diverse workforce means a more balanced company, and that leads to increased productivity and profits.