How to Promote Generational Diversity and Prevent Age-Related Compliance Violations
By Liz Alton
Generational diversity adds tremendous value to firms. Building a reputation for valuing all candidates can improve your employer branding and help you compete for talent in tight labour markets.
Generational diversity in the workforce offers important advantages, yet organizations may struggle with age discrimination in the hiring process and need to take steps to protect against it.
Businesses regulated by the federal government have a legal obligation to comply with the Employment Equity Act regulations and run the risk of fines and other compliance actions in the case of a violation. Here's a closer look at strategies you can employ to ensure that you're training your team to prevent age-related bias and offering a great experience to candidates and employees at all stages of the employment life cycle.
Focus on Training Against Age Discrimination and Unintentional Bias
One of the most important steps organizations can take, according to Mollie Mantia, ADP's Senior Director of Compliance for Security and Business Resiliency, is training their teams on what age discrimination is, how to avoid it during the hiring process and how to prevent it in the workplace generally.
"Training is essential to having best practices in place within your organization," says Mantia. "Hiring affects all groups in the organization — it can be the finance team, your business resiliency team, the security team. It's important that there's consistent training among all the departments in the organization. You can do training for overcoming bias or training on unconscious bias. I think that it's critical for organizations to make sure they're setting a precedent."
In training, you should provide your team with the context to support generational diversity throughout the hiring process, but Mantia advises going beyond that:
"You have to think, 'How do I make sure my employees are best prepared to handle a situation, or how am I equipping them to be successful in their work environment?'" says Mantia. "And being successful in their work environment means, of course, avoiding all signs of discrimination."
Use Technology to Eliminate Unconscious Bias
When you're looking for ways to mitigate the risk of age discrimination, focus on unconscious bias. In many cases, employees aren't even aware of the underlying patterns that drive the behavior. Human capital technology solutions that enable methods like blind screening can help to eliminate the risk of unconscious bias coming into play during the hiring process.
According to Mantia, employee resource groups can help address the potential for unconscious bias. "For instance, at ADP we have a business resource group that specifically focuses on looking at all the generations that are employed at the business and how to bring everyone together," she says. "It's offering different resources to make people come together so you see different points of view, different situations."
Commit to Offering a Great Experience to All Candidates as Employer Branding
In today's landscape, having generational diversity and a reputation for offering a great experience to all candidates is a key part of your employer brand.
"It's important because in the war for talent, when you hire someone, they're looking at everything your business does," says Mantia. "They're looking at things like the resources you have in place, what types of trainings you do. Do you have business resource groups that they can be part of? They may ask about training in regard to this, so you have to think of the whole package you're offering to make sure you're going to have a successful employee relationship."
Quantify the Risk And Monitor Ongoing Legislation
It's important to look at real examples of cases in the current landscape as well as any pending changes to map potential risks. Mantia recommends watching legislation and regulations to stay up to date, as they can change quickly. She also suggests setting up Google alerts for topics that might affect your business from sources such as Employment and Social Development Canada.
Raise Awareness Around Diverse Age Discrimination
While the term may bring to mind older employees, it's important to remember that age discrimination can come in many forms.
"When people think of age discrimination, they just automatically think of more tenured employees," says Mantia. "It can be with those who start their career right out of college, it can be those that just maybe look a little bit younger than they really are. It's important to highlight that bias can happen at both ends of the spectrum."
Organizations can benefit from generational diversity, and it's critical to prevent age discrimination both in the hiring process and in the workplace. The fines and reputational repercussions (as well as the damage to employee relationships) can be significant when issues arise.
Businesses that commit to the training, compliance monitoring strategies and technologies needed to address unconscious bias can potentially see significant improvements in their hiring processes. And having a strong training program and a market reputation as an employer who values generational diversity can provide a significant edge in a tough talent landscape.
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