Stranger in a strange land?

During a working career, most people believe that their experience gained while performing any job means they become more valuable to their employers. And that may be true. But that does not mean those employers want to pay for that experience. They may also believe that in some areas, older workers lack the flexibility or are not sufficiently “with it” to learn new systems or processes.

And this bias can filter into the hiring process. While they know they cannot exclude older workers from consideration, they can express their preference for young workers with subtle phrasing of their job advertisement. The latest term in the language of marketing is “digital native.” 

This conveys the message that they do not want someone in their 50s or 60s, but rather someone in their 20s, who has grown up with various digital technologies as part of their existence. In some cases, it may be used because of a lack of understanding as to the potential connotations.

Whether it is evidence of age-based discrimination would likely depend on a host of other factors also being present. If the manager who placed the ad is young and the other workers he or she may have hired are all young, it may be more than just convenient shorthand for someone immersed in the word of digital technology.

And because technology continues to advance and new devices and systems come along, such terminology could itself become dated. Ironically, because it may also imply great fluency with digital systems, it could wind up being seen as merely one who has a great deal of experience with all things digital.

But employers should always be cautious when using words with imprecise definitions, especially in employment advertisements.

Source: fortune.com, “This is the latest way employers mask age bias, lawyers say,” Vivian Giang, May 4, 2015

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