Employee management platform developer Visier published “Visier Insights Report: The Truth About Ageism in the Tech Industry” earlier this week, which revealed a trend of hiring young despite data suggesting that older employees outperform.
The report, based on 330,000 employees from 43 large U.S. enterprises, found that systemic ageism in tech hiring practices has led to Gen Xers being hired at a 33% lower rate than their workforce representation, and Baby Boomers at a 60% lower rate. Meanwhile, millennials are hired at a 50% higher rate than their workforce representation.
Though a trend towards younger hires was expected, Dave Weisbeck, Visier’s chief strategy officer and coordinator of the survey, the scope of the issue was not.
“What surprised us is if you look within complaints going to the California Department of Fair Employment, there are actually more complaints of ageism from the 150 biggest tech companies than there are for any sort of racial issues or for any sort of gender issues,” Weisbeck said.
The average age of a tech worker is younger than counterparts in other industries, Visier’s data shows — 38 years old compared to 43. And from age 40 on, non-managers in tech enter what Visier calls “Tech Sage Age,” during which they generally outperform similarly aged workers in other fields, not to mention younger employees in their own.
“Companies are looking to younger workers with the expectation that they’re cheaper,” said Weisbeck. “They are doing a return-on-investment calculation without being explicit about it. One of the things that I think they’re missing in that ROI calculation is cost of turnover.”
Visier’s data shows that millennials have a much higher resignation rate than older employees, but also that over the course of their first decade in the industry, there is a “massive,” approximately 25 percent decline in resignation rates for tech workers.
Visier concluded that the best hiring practices for tech should involve a less weighted mixture of older, more experienced and stable employees, and young blood.
“Resignation is such an expense for a company that there is a real advantage to bringing in some of these older workers,” Weisbeck said. “So our advice to companies is to be looking at these Gen X and Baby Boomer generations as a great untapped potential for an outperforming and more loyal workforce today than if you’re only looking at younger workers.”
On a more positive note for older tech employees, the survey found that there is no common trend of discrimination in other areas like pay or promotions, either for established workers or for more experienced new hires. But Visier still recommends that employers follow these guidelines to weed out potential biases and build the optimal workforce:
- Review your workforce data to understand the current state of age equity within your organizations to find any signs of potential bias in hiring, promotions, salary levels, turnover, and performance ratings.
- Keep in mind that, as with ethnic and gender equity, age equity is a cultural issue – if pockets of ageism exist within your organization, you will need to devise plans to address them not only via better HR practice and policy rollouts, but through culture change.
- Consider implementing a version of the Rooney Rule for age, specifically for teams or roles where the workforce is less diverse in age: for every position you have open to fill, consider one or more older candidates (or candidates that will help create a more diverse team, in general).
- Develop hiring practices that reduce the potential for intentional or unintentional bias in the screening out of older applicants.