U.S. firms buck the ageism trend

Nov 17 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

While nearly a quarter of the U.S. workforce knows of an older worker who has been denied a job, promotion or raise because of their age, more than twice as many businesses encourage older workers to stay on the job than to retire early.

According to a survey by HR consultants Hudson, nearly four out of 10 U.S. workers say their organisations are keen to hold onto older workers because they are difficult to replace, compared to only one in seven whose firms want to make way for younger workers.

The figures are in sharp contrast to the endemic ageism in the UK, where almost six out of 10 managers recently claimed to have been "personally disadvantaged" at work because of their age.

Almost half of UK managers also said they had suffered age discrimination through job applications while four out of 10 believe their chances of promotion had been hindered because of their age.

Other research has found that nearly two-thirds of UK businesses do not actively recruit from the over-50 age group.

In the U.S., however, the Hudson research suggests that entrepreneurs and small-business operators are especially eager to retain older workers, with half encouraging them to stay on the job, compared to only one in 10 promoting retirement.

But it is a rather different story in the public sector, where a quarter of government workers say retirement is actively encouraged.

Many U.S. organisations proactively take steps to take advantage of older workers' experience

Keenly aware of the impending exodus from the workforce of the baby-boomer generation, many U.S. organisations - and particularly larger ones - proactively take steps to take advantage of older workers' experience.

More than a third told the Hudson survey that their firms offer formal mentoring programs to pair a younger worker with an older one for guidance and training. That number rises to half of companies with 250-500 employees.

Among those employees whose firms offer such programs, half also say their firms encourage older workers to stay.

"With 76 million baby boomers approaching retirement age, retaining older workers is not so much a choice as a necessity," said Alicia Barker, vice president of human resources, Hudson North America.

"That said, organisations that go beyond accommodation to active engagement of older workers stand to benefit from a loyal, hardworking labour force that offers tremendous experience and institutional knowledge."

But even as companies do more to keep workers on the job longer, those workers themselves may not have a choice.

According to a Hudson survey earlier this year, three-quarters of U.S. workers plan to work at least part-time during their retirement years.

The latest survey found that almost six out of 10 workers believe that people continue to work beyond retirement age because they need money, while just a quarter say it is because they enjoy having something to do.