older man at workPeople aged 50 and over  have more knowledge and skills than younger employees and want to continue to learn more and move up the career ladder.  But they are being held back by ‘organisational ageism’, according to the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM).  As a result, Britain is heading  for a large and worrying leadership skills gap.

ILM’s  spokesperson, Kate Cooper, said,   ‘We are seeing signs of organisational ageism, where highly skilled and talented staff members have less opportunity to progress as they get older. There is an inequality in Britain’s workforce that is contributing to a large and worrying leadership skills gap. Over-50s are typically not being given equal opportunity to apply their skills, knowledge and customer focus within a leadership role.

‘Researchers found that over 50s have more knowledge and skills than younger employees, and also tend to be more highly motivated.   But they are victims of out-dated stereotypes, for example, being perceived as worse at computer systems and social media.  As a result, despite wanting to climb the career ladder, many older managers ware resigned to the fact they may miss out on promotion, with only half rating themselves as having ‘high potential’ for progression at their workplace.

‘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.’older workers' meeting

The study, called Untapped Talent, said UK workplaces would soon have up to five different generations working together side by side, from the ages of 17 to over 70.  ‘Managers will be faced with the challenge of leading staff from across these five different generations in a dynamic and fast-moving work environment.’  It added that dispelling these generational myths is an important first step to capitalising and developing older talent.

If older workers continued to be overlooked for management, Britain would suffer a ‘serious talent and skills shortage’, because the number of younger people entering the workforce is too low to meet the needs of businesses.’

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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