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Friday, December 19, 2014

An End to Age Discrimination?

No doubt you have heard about the law of unintended consequences. Originally, it was described as "outcomes that are not the ones intended by a purposeful action." This particular law is most often cited if something bad happens when the intent of the original action was to accomplish something positive. We see it exemplified often in nature when one species is introduced to control another species and the new species creates its own set of problems.
Sometimes however, the law of unintended consequences can have a positive outcome from a trend rather than a purposeful action, and that is exactly what is occurring in the job market with people in their mid-forties and older being hired by companies to fill positions formerly dominated by much younger workers.
It's no secret that average job tenure for today's younger workers is not nearly what it was for their parents and grandparents. "Move on to move up" has become almost a mantra for millennials and other younger workers who have a much different attitude toward job structure and tenure than their parents and grandparents had. Job tenure of 2 to 4 years is common. Even among younger baby boomers, males have an average of 11.4 jobs and women 10.7 jobs during their working lives.
With tenure statistics like these, employers are beginning to realize that the idea of hiring a young worker with the expectation that they will eventually retire with the company is unrealistic. These statistics have been a motivation for many employers to look at older workers, who have traditionally been seen as "over the hill" to fill many positions that used to be the domain of younger workers. The rationale is that it makes more sense to hire someone in the mid to late fifties who has an excellent chance of staying in the job for ten to twelve years than to hire a much younger person who will use it as a springboard to the next position.
Age discrimination is still very real and is common in some industries, but more and more employers are beginning to consider the skill set more than the birth year as the main criteria for consideration in jobs they need to fill. I certainly see it in my recruiting business. I would not say that it is the norm just yet, but it is certainly moving in that direction. It is particularly evident in the hard-to-fill positions involving STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) knowledge and experience.
Employers reap the benefits of the older worker's experience and get an employee who is unlikely to use the position as a temporary parking place while looking for the next career move. Age discrimination is not going away anytime soon and probably will never disappear entirely, but the combination of high demand for many professional and/or skilled workers and the short job tenure in the millennial cohort is putting a dent in it.
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Ken Murdock is the owner of Murdock & Associates Recruiters and New Wave Résumés. He recruits top talent in sales, project management, accounting/finance, manufacturing operations, and engineering for the manufacturing sector, oil & gas, construction, and the packaging industry. New Wave Résumés offers professional résumés and interview coaching for executives, mid-level professionals, recent graduates, and anyone seeking to take their skills and talents into a new career.