Is your organization inclusive for aging employees in the workplace?
Engagement 5 minute read

Is your organization inclusive for aging employees in the workplace?

Megan Orr | October 11, 2022

The sudden dismissal of long-term reporter Lisa LaFlamme from CTV News has many organizations re-evaluating their own culture and policies around aging employees in the workplace. Here’s why you should too.

LaFlamme, who was chief news anchor and senior editor at CTV and had worked for the station for 35 years, was “blindsided” by the decision to terminate her contract. Although Bell Media, who owns CTV, claimed that the move was a business decision to do with changing viewer habits, other sources have implied that it had to do with LaFlamme allowing her hair to go grey. 

In a LinkedIn post about the issue, Mirko Bibic, the president and CEO of BCE and Bell Canada, wrote that “the narrative has been that Lisa’s age, gender or grey hair played into the decision. I am satisfied that this is not the case and wanted to make sure you heard it from me”. However, Bibic also notes that Vice President of National News, Michael Melling, who allegedly spoke out against LaFlamme going grey, “is on leave effective immediately, pending the outcome of the workplace review that is proceeding”. 

In response, companies such as Wendy’s and Dove took to social media to show their support. The fast-food chain, which is known for its on-trend and tongue-in-cheek social media strategy, posted a tweet with their iconic Wendy’s logo sporting grey hair. 

Of course, such a public dismissal of a pillar in the Canadian news industry is bound to ruffle some feathers, regardless of the circumstance. However, it does bring up concerns about what may be going on behind closed doors in other organizations and industries. Are people—particularly women—being quietly let go or pushed out of their organizations as they go grey? And are we allowing it to happen?

CTV and Bell Media aren’t the only companies facing criticism for age discrimination and being forced to re-evaluate how they handle aging employees in the workplace. 

Domino’s Pizza recently faced claims that a candidate was rejected for a delivery driver role because of their age and gender. The candidate reported that the first question she was asked in her interview was how old she was. A member of the interview panel later responded to her complaints with an apology, saying that “they didn’t know it was inappropriate to ask someone their age during a job interview”. 

Not only was it inappropriate, but—at least in Canada—it’s illegal for the hiring manager to ask about the applicant's age. Age is a protected class under the BC Human Rights Code and an “employer can’t refuse to interview, hire, promote or fire an employee because of their age”. Additionally, employers are only allowed to ask if an employee is the legal age to work and may not even “ask anything in order to determine [a candidate’s] age such as ‘What year did you graduate from high school?’”. 

Age does play a role in finding a job for both young and older searchees. Research has shown that “63 per cent of jobseekers aged 45 and up are unemployed for more than a year compared to 36 per cent of those aged 18 to 24”. Younger people have reported facing discrimination too, “such as being belittled, passed over for jobs, or paid poorly because they are young and deemed inexperienced”. 

Research shows that “while 84 per cent of U.S. employers feel they are offering opportunities, work arrangements, and training and tools needed for employees of all ages to be successful, only 65 per cent of workers agree” that these opportunities exist. With four different age groups—Boomer, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z—making up most average workplaces, there are a lot of differences in what various employees need to work effectively. 

Employers need to learn to meet their employees where they’re at—whether that means in their employee journey or their life. 

Every generation brings their own skills and potential limitations into the workplace. Here are some of the ways you can better support your aging employees in the workplace—and everyone else, too. 

  • Ensure that all employees have access to learning and growth opportunities. This can be through in-house training, such as a 101 course on certain softwares your organization uses that not everyone may be familiar with, or through third-party softwares like Thinkific, or a resource of the employees choosing. 
  • Create policies that make it explicitly clear that discrimination is not tolerated, including towards both young and aging employees in the workplace.
  • Make sure all employees—but especially those involved with hiring—know what is appropriate to ask and talk about with job candidates and fellow employees. 
  • Check-in with your employees regularly and help them grow and thrive as individuals. Try not to get stuck in a one-size-fits-all approach to managing. 

Research shows that employers that have a diverse age group and work to support their aging employees in the workplace can see many benefits. This can include things like improved performance, reduced employee turnover, increased innovation, a wider variety of skill sets, insight into traditional business skills, and more mentorship opportunities.

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