It’s Time To Address Reverse Ageism

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To stem the Great Resignation, recognize prejudices against younger employees and give them the training and opportunities that will attract and retain them.

It’s no secret that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 was designed to protect employees over the age of 40 from discrimination. However, there is a contemporary form of discrimination that is currently affecting the workplace today, serving as one of the catalysts of the Great Resignation. This form of discrimination is called reverse ageism.

According to a report in The Psychological-Management Journal, there is evidence that suggests that younger professionals are viewed more stereotypically by older professionals. An additional study in Developmental Psychology highlights the notion that reverse age discrimination prevents young professionals from learning core work skills needed to grow and excel within their professional endeavors, which then creates a negative work environment for young professionals.

In general, the workforce consists of five distinct generations and there is a growing gap between older employees and younger employees in regards to perspectives and experiences. Despite the growing cases of reverse ageism in the workplace, senior executives are consistently being challenged to update existing corporate policies in favor of all employees, regardless of age. Here are four ways leaders can solve the growing issues of reverse ageism on the behalf of young professionals and ultimately reverse the Great Resignation in the workplace:

1. Empower Younger Employees Through Reverse Mentorship

The underrated level of knowledge, digital dexterity and professional wisdom from young employees can spark growth while bridging the gap between the current corporate environment and the future workplace. Senior executives can establish leadership, increase the retention rate and foster diversity in their companies by empowering younger employees to elevate themselves.

Traditional financial firms like PwC and  JPMorgan Chase are implementing reverse-mentoring models for their employees while putting senior leaders in the mentee’s chair for a change and giving more junior employees the chance to share their insights.

In 2020, the Human Capital Management team at Goldman Sachs launched a reverse mentorship program in the Americas and Europe. The program is designed to pair senior Black talent with non-Black senior leadership to deepen the understanding of current events, the historical impact of racism and the lived Black experience, while discussing key themes such as fostering inclusion and intersectionality.

Reverse mentorship is a great way for young employees to create relationships with senior executives, but it also cultivates a workplace culture that values all generations, regardless of race, religion, age and sexual preference.

2. Create Company-Wide Fast Track Management Programs for Young Professionals

There is no “one size fits all” formula for career progression. Though most companies rely on internship programs as a tool of immersion for students and entry-level professionals, managerial programs should serve as a tool of investment for young professionals.

Senior executives can incentivize young professionals to stay in their firms by investing in them through accelerated managerial programs within the workplace.

Technology development companies like Revature emphasize the importance of career growth by providing young professionals with in-house coding boot camps, two-year managerial programs and other development programs to train these professionals in high-demand software skills and deploying them to work on information technology projects.

3. Senior Executive Day

It takes a great deal of trust to put the company in the hands of young professionals. One tactic that can test a senior executive’s trust in a young professional is to reverse roles for a day.

Collaborative environment initiatives such as a Senior Executive for a Day program can enable leaders to “put the shoes on the other foot” and allow young professionals to serve as an executive for a day while senior executives serve as an associate.

Ville Houttu, the founder and CEO of Vincit USA empowers each employee by making them CEO for a day where the temporary commander-in-chief has an unlimited budget with no veto power retained by Houttu.

Through this productive initiative, younger employees have a chance to experience what it’s like to hold the full burden of responsibility while building unique leadership skills with the help of board members, stakeholders and other high-ranking employees. In return, senior executives will have the chance to experience professional nostalgia as they turn back the hands of time and work through certain tasks that they had to complete when they were in their 20s and 30s.

4. Safe and Anonymous Reporting Portal for Victims of Discrimination

Employees who have experienced any form of discrimination should have an opportunity to anonymously report such acts within the workplace. When voicing their issues, these employees should feel safe without any form of retaliation from other employees.

Senior executives concerned about addressing the issues of any form of discrimination in their workplaces need to redesign policies and provide an anonymous safe space for uncomfortable employees. When employers can successfully address the issues of reverse ageism, and actively create a collaborative workplace of diverse perspectives across all employees, the retention rate and employee satisfaction will certainly increase.

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