Wanted: Young, Dynamic Leader… over 50’s need not apply!

NP Group

By Mark Sparrow, Managing Director Executive Search at NP Group.

I thought it was just something that happened to other people.
Then it happened to me. 

All the signs were there.
I knew it was coming.
I tried to prepare.
I wasn’t prepared. 
I Turned 50!

All sorts of thoughts present themselves when you hit 50. Your own mortality hits home hard. You are simply not that young guy anymore and although the mind has not changed materially – physically, there’s a little less hair, a few more creases, recovery from exercise takes a little bit longer and the 6 pack is a little less prominent (ahem!).

If, like me, you have a young family, you also realise that you may have to work for quite a long time more to ensure that you can fund their foray into higher education and put aside a little for your own retirement. All of which starts to point to a more pertinent question. Will I be viewed as employable in my 50s and beyond?

Here’s why I should be.

After nearly 30 years in the profession I finally know what I’m doing and am comfortable giving advice based on experience.

This year I completed a half marathon and 100km cycle ride for the first time since giving up my rugby career in my late 20s. Arguably I have never been fitter!

Over the years the ego has taken second place and the notion of telling people what they want to hear has diminished too. This should make me a more authentic employee and accomplished advisor.

Drive & Commitment
3 Daughters under 13, a wife, a dog and mortgage. Need I say more?

By all accounts I am on top of my game, good at what I do and motivated to perform. This is surely the profile of someone who should be an excellent employee or hire?

Is there an Unconscious, or even Conscious Bias towards older workers?
I was conducting a search for a client recently and I found myself getting excited by the skill-base and experience in a candidate I had discovered. Only to have that extinguished when I realised that they were in their late 50s. Even I fell into the trap of unconscious bias.

I’m not proud of it and I’m not even sure that I knew immediately that I had done it, but somewhere in my psyche I had conditioned myself that my client would want someone ‘dynamic’, which meant young! This forced me to tackle the question as to why?

The outcome is that I DID interview the candidate and presented him successfully to the client who ultimately employed him.

I fell unsighted into a cliché and thankfully realised it before I contributed to something that still seems to be a systemic issue for many employers globally.

Landmark Legal Age Discrimination case
Last month saw a landmark legal case regarding ageism in the workplace. A senior FTSE 250 firm executive who was called an ‘old fossil’ by his younger boss and told he ‘did not know how to manage millennials’ has won a tribunal for age discrimination.

He was sacked and replaced with a younger woman after his company implemented a new policy that encouraged managers not to hire people over the age of 45. The £300,000-a-year manager was 58 when he was told he would be dismissed from his role as a divisional president at the global engineering company, after almost 40 years.

An employment tribunal heard this came 18 months after the CEO called him an ‘old fossil’ in the middle of a meeting with other executives. The ‘old fossil’  – who was a divisional president at his organisation – accused the firm of having an ‘institutional and deep prejudice against older employees’.

He has now won claims of age discrimination, victimisation and unfair dismissal and is set to receive a ‘significant’ payout. Is this the first of many major rulings on ageism in the workplace?

What does the Law say?
Working into your 60s, 70s and beyond is no longer a rarity, and for many it’s a financial necessity. The past 15 years has seen a 60% rise in the number of people aged 50-64 in the workplace, a third of the workforce is expected to be over 50 by 2022 and in the last 10 years, the percentage of employed 70–74-year-olds has virtually doubled. Despite the prevalence of older workers, many people aged 50 and over feel unfavourably discriminated against because of their age. Everyone has the right to be treated fairly at work and there are laws to protect you against discrimination based on age.

As a recruitment company, we are always aware of the importance of equal opportunities in the workplace, in our own business and when recruiting for our clients’. We provide our clients with advice around unconscious bias when recruiting, and work in line with their Diversity and Inclusion strategies – but it’s only recently that ageism in the workplace has come to the forefront of conversations.

We’re addressing questions such as, how well can a 60-year-old relate to and manage a millennial? Or are the older generation of workers ‘out of touch’ with technology?

A Diverse Workforce is Key
At NP Group, we believe having a highly diverse workforce is key. With older workers bringing valuable assets such as experience and maturity, with younger workers providing more energy and ideas – it’s so important to have a variety of ages working in your teams.

Age-related jokes and remarks that are offensive or belittling can constitute harassment, so perhaps it’s time age discrimination education and training is formalised like HR training initiatives such as Diversity and Inclusion.

Further to this, it has been well publicised that there is a global talent crunch with insufficient skill-sets available to sate the hiring appetite – with leadership being amongst to top skills sought out. Are companies missing a trick to hire motivated, experienced and competent professionals based on an outdated fixation that older workers lack dynamism, motivation or modern skills? I would subscribe that this is the exact time in history for companies to embrace the 50+ generations and see this valuable part of the workforce for all the talent it can bring to a company.

About NP Group Executive Search
Access to top executive talent can be the difference between success and failure – particularly if you are looking to accelerate growth. We are at the forefront of Executive Search in the Technology and Consulting arenas; our team has extensive knowledge of global markets and access to wide-reaching networks of technology leaders.

Our Executive Search consultants are true experts, with a wealth of global recruitment experience at an executive level. 

For the smarter, faster way to handle your senior level recruitment needs, get in touch.
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