Ageism in the workplace is widening the skills gap

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Workers over 50 are being overlooked for promotions despite possessing the knowledge and experience to fill the UK’s leadership skills gap according to the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM).

Many organisations wrongly assume over 50s lack the desire to progress into leadership and management positions the ‘Untapped tale: Can over 50s bridge the leadership skills gap’ report has found.

Managers rated team members aged 50 and over lower than younger age groups for their eagerness to learn, develop and progress, scoring them at 46 percent for these attributes. For Generation X (1965-1976) they rated at 67 percent and for millennials (1977-1997) at 79 percent.

In comparison, over 50s rated their own eagerness to develop at 97 percent and millennials scored the lowest with 87 percent.

Kate Cooper, head of Applied Research & Policy at ILM says:

“There is an inequality in Britain’s workforce that is contributing to a large and worrying leadership skills gap. We see that over 50s are typically not being given equal opportunity to apply their much needed occupational skills, knowledge and customer focus within a leadership role. This is because older workers are wrongly assumed to lack the desire to learn and progress into more senior positions, when in fact we found they are just as keen, if not keener, than their younger colleagues to grow and develop.” 

Confidence and career targets were lower in over 50s than their younger colleagues, with 46 percent of over 50s managers expecting to advance into more senior roles in the next three years. This is compared to 76 percent of millennial managers and 62 percent of Generation X.

Kate Cooper states:

We are seeing signs of organisational ageism, where highly skilled and talented staff members have less opportunity to progress as they get older. It seems this culture is so embedded that many workers over 50s are accepting they have limited opportunities in their current organisations.”

Department for Work and Pensions figures indicate that an estimated 13.5 million jobs will be created over the next 10 years, with seven million young people entering the workforce. This is leaving the UK with a skills gap, particularly in leadership and management positions. Around 93 percent of UK employers worry that low levels of management skills are preventing them from achieving business goals according to a ILM ‘Leadership and Management Talent Pipeline’ report.

Kate Cooper adds:

“At a time when the relatively weak performance of UK management is affecting both national and organisational competitiveness, there is a real opportunity for organisations to recognise the benefits of an age diverse workforce and realise the untapped leadership talent of the over 50’s by investing in their ongoing training and development.”

For more on this topic, we are holding a free webinar on the ageing workforce on the 18th June 2015 at 11am. Our expert panel will discuss the latest issues surrounding age discrimination, later-life training and solutions for supporting your older workforce. Click the link to sign up and join us for this interactive debate.

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2 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Disconcerting given all the rafts of legislation as well as gazillions spent on Diversity and Inclusion training etc.

    Fortunately many of the grey brain trust doing expensive interim and consulting work for very organisations who wont employ them full time at a premium.

    Any studies, research on this?

  2. This is crazy, we employ the more mature ladies and they are hard workers, loyal, good at what they do and very rarely take time of sick. In comparison to our younger staff who for them it is mostly ‘just a job’. I do find a mix works well though as we employ from 18 – 55. For us it is the skills that matter not the age!

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