Over-50s are keener - but employers don't think so

Is ageism damaging the economy?

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Bosses are shooting themselves in the foot by underestimating the ability of older workers, new research shows.

Despite possessing the essential knowledge and experience needed to fill the UK's leadership skills gap, the over-50s are routinely being overlooked for promotion.

A survey released today by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) shows that managers rated team members aged 50-plus far lower than younger age groups for their keenness to learn, develop and progress, scoring them at 46%. This compares to 67% for those born between 1965 and 1976, and 79% for those born between 1977 and 1997.

In fact, though, the over-50s rated their own keenness to develop at 94% - higher than the youngest age group surveyed, who trailed in last place with 87%.

"There is an inequality in Britain's workforce that is contributing to a large and worrying leadership skills gap. We see that over-50s are typically not being given equal opportunity to apply their much-needed occupational skills, knowledge and customer focus within a leadership role," says Kate Cooper, ILM's head of applied research and policy.

"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."

However, older workers seem aware of how the cards are stacked against them. Despite all their ambition, fewer than half expect a promotion within the next three years. The other age groups were substantially more optimistic.

The Department for Work and Pensions predicts that13.5 million jobs will be created over the next 10 years - while only seven million young people will enter the labour force.

"At a time when the relatively weak performance of UK management is affecting both national and organisational competitiveness," says Cooper, "there is a real opportunity for organisations to recognise the benefits of an age diverse workforce and realise the untapped leadership talent of the over 50's by investing in their ongoing training and development."

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