Could Overcoming Ageism Be the Answer to Tech’s Talent Shortage?

Time to Read: 4.5 minutes

Updated: December 21, 2023

Ageism – prejudice or discrimination against individuals based on their age – has long been an issue in the tech industry. Older professionals often face challenges in recruitment and advancement due to stereotypes and biases. Tackling ageism is not only a matter of social justice but also a strategic solution to the tech talent shortage. Embracing age diversity and recognizing the wealth of experience older workers bring can help bridge the skills gap and keep businesses thriving.

The Tech Talent Shortage

The tech industry’s talent shortage stems from several key factors, each contributing to the growing gap between demand and supply:

Rapid Technological Advancements

The fast-paced evolution of technology constantly raises the bar for required skills, leaving professionals with outdated expertise behind.

Growing Demand Across Sectors

Technology has become integral to various industries, such as healthcare, finance, and manufacturing, amplifying the need for skilled tech professionals across the board.

Lack of Specialized Skills

Roles demanding specialized expertise, like cybersecurity and data science, face shortages as finding professionals with these specific skills proves challenging.

Educational Discrepancies

Differences between educational curricula and industry needs mean graduates often lack the practical skills required by employers, exacerbating the talent gap in the job market.

Ageism in the Tech Industry

Technology is an industry that is inherently connected to youth. Younger people are considered “digital natives” who are more adaptable, more able to understand innovation and more optimistic about the influence of technology on society. These perceptions of age mean that the industry is skewed towards a preference for younger employees. One study found that anyone over the age of 35 was considered old by their colleagues and employers. To put this into perspective the median age of the US workforce is 42.

What this fails to consider is that the industry has been around for a surprisingly long time. Many tech employees could have begun their careers in the late 1980s and early 1990s and are still some way off from retirement. These Gen X tech workers have a wealth of knowledge and industry experience that organizations could find valuable in overcoming the tech talent shortage.

Overcoming Ageism: A Solution to the Talent Shortage

Embracing a multigenerational workforce can enhance innovation, problem-solving and creativity within organizations and the tech industry. Older employees often possess extensive industry knowledge, mentorship abilities, and a wealth of professional connections, which can greatly benefit younger colleagues. By offering opportunities to a broader age range, businesses can develop products and services that solve the needs of a wider consumer audience. But most importantly keeping employees productive and engaged in the workforce for longer is an appealing strategy for employers struggling to attract new talent during the tech talent shortage.

Here are four ways your business can build an organization that appeals to employees of all ages:

1. Introducing Unbiased Hiring Practices

Implementing blind recruitment practices, that is removing personal information such as age, gender, race, and other identifying details from the initial stages of hiring, can help you focus solely on evaluating candidates based on their skills, qualifications, and experience. Structured interviews with standardized questions and assessment criteria as well as diverse interview panels can further help to reduce bias. It is also important to invest in diversity and unconscious bias training for HR teams and hiring managers to raise awareness about DEI issues in hiring.

2.  Building a More Accepting Culture

When employees from different age groups feel their opinions are valued, they become more engaged and motivated, leading to a positive and accepting workplace culture. Open communication channels, such as regular team meetings, feedback sessions, and inclusive decision-making processes, create a sense of belonging and ensure everyone’s voice is heard. Such an inclusive culture not only attracts professionals of all ages but also retains talent by making them feel appreciated and respected.

3. The Role of Education and Training

By promoting continuous learning, you encourage employees of all ages to stay updated with evolving technologies and trends. Intergenerational teams provide a unique form of education where younger workers impart essential digital skills, such as coding and app development, to older colleagues. Meanwhile, experienced professionals share invaluable industry knowledge and expertise honed over years, creating a knowledge exchange that bridges generational gaps. This mutual learning not only improves the skill sets of all team members but helps establish mutual respect and understanding.

4. Changing Perceptions

The media and popular culture significantly influence perception of older tech professionals. Often these are negative stereotypes portraying them as out-of-touch or less adaptable to new tech. To counter this, organizations can actively promote positive narratives through media representation. Featuring successful older tech experts, highlighting their contributions, and showcasing their innovative work in your employer branding not only challenges stereotypes but also inspires confidence in older candidates and employees.

Combating ageism in the tech industry holds the key to bridging the tech talent shortage effectively. By dismantling age-related biases and fostering inclusivity, the industry can tap into the wealth of experience that older professionals offer. Combating ageism is not just about social equity; it’s a strategic move towards a more diverse and innovative tech workforce. Overcoming age-related biases creates a level playing field strengthening the workforce, making it more robust, adaptive, and forward-thinking.

Pierpoint’s full-service RPO solution can help you source, attract and retain vibrant and efficient tech talent with the skills you need for growth and success. Talk to an expert today to discuss your talent needs.

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Jen Mulholland

Jen is a successful recruitment and marketing professional. Driven by a genuine passion for writing, she provides insightful, accurate and engaging content for the Human Resources community across a wide range of topics and industries.

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