Why does age demographic matter if it leads to ageist actions?

Following the launch of our Engagement survey I have had some really great questions from employees most of which I felt confident answering until this one:

“Why do you need my age on the demographic survey?”

I thought I had this covered by explaining that it’s great to understand and get insights into how engagement and wants/need/dislikes change among age groups.

“What action would come off the back of this information that would not be age discriminatory?” it was followed up with…

I’m starting to think they have a point…anyone want to guide me back on the right path…


I always say that surveys never give any answers - but provide great questions. In addition, the thing about surveys is that we are finding out things we don’t know. If we knew every nuance of what people were thinking, we wouldn’t need to run surveys.

So, maybe age demographics will show nothing of interest. Or maybe it will - and you won’t know until you run the reports. Our latest survey showed a marked difference to certain questions by age. This allowed us to set up focus groups with those demographics to understand why they answered the way they did. After all, that’s the whole point of running surveys - to find out what people (or groups of people) are thinking and feeling, and fix any problems that exist.

Thanks Mark, I guess my questions is that once we find that a certain age category does feel a certain way and we try to remedy this with a positive action or initiative then is that then not Ageism?

Is recruiting more women when you have gender imbalance sexism? I’d suggest not. If you’ve identified a specific demographic that feels different to the norm and you look to understand why and how to make things better, then that cannot be seen as ageism (in a negative connotation) - unless it negatively impacts another demographic, when you’ll have to be careful.