A fifty year old salesman is looking for a change from his current job. He is a graduate and has been selling electrical appliances all his life. He understands the consumer preferences well; knows about the products thoroughly. He is skilled well to make a sale happen and has been meeting his targets. It should be easy for him to get a new job based on his proven track record, knowledge and expertise. Will the Top retailers hire him? Will the consumer durable industry welcome him with open arms to retail their products?
Age plays an important factor in recruiting decisions
Recruiters and employers alike, are prejudiced towards hiring a certain kind of people. They subconsciously choose people who match a set of criteria. Age is one such unspoken criterion that interviewers and assessors apply while deciding.
Two-thirds of our population are below the age of 35. Hence, a lot of managers in the mid to senior levels are in their youth. Given the social norms that we grow up with, most Indians are not comfortable to supervise someone who is senior to them by age. So, subconsciously they look for younger people to work in their teams. Age plays an important role in getting chosen for a job, not the skills alone.
And it is often believed that the younger people are energetic, dynamic, ambitious, quick-learners, tech-savvy and willing to adapt. Many people think that the older people are rigid, inflexible, slow, impatient and among the spent-force. Naturally, there is just a handful of jobs such as a trainer, a teacher, a singer, a chef where grey hair is valued.
No Law that prevents discrimination based on age
In the US, it is unlawful to enquire about the age of the applicant in an interview. In India, our constitution prevents discrimination based on caste, creed and religion. Age is not one of these. Hence, an employer can decide to use age as a criterion for their decisions of recruiting and retirement. Legally speaking, there is nothing wrong in using age as a filter. Organizations do look at the age of the applicants to judge their suitability with what the role demands. They tend to figure if the applicant will be able to cope with the stress, work schedule, challenges and demands of the role. This kind of judgement is not among the best HR practices. However, interviewers and assessors follow such methods most often than not.
Make way for the young
Many organizations in India are on a growth path. So, it is easy to promote someone into a bigger role, offer greater responsibilities at a higher salary. Hence, the ageing manager does not obstruct the individual growth of his or her direct reports, rather the experience and maturity of the senior are leveraged often in the organization. This sounds like a fairy tale. Does this happen routinely?
Certainly not! Workmen do not follow this kind of a growth path. Secondly, most organizations do not get on this dream run. Since our economy sees inflation, costs keep increasing each year. As someone ages in the same role, the cost goes up without a comparable increase in the impact. The only way an organization can deal with this situation is to rediscover new ways, transform itself and optimize its cost structure. So, the old guard has to make way for the young in order to optimize the costs and inject new thinking.
Age is not just a number. As long as it correlates with the impact delivered, it is hale and hearty.