Older employees offer immense talents but often face age discrimination and high unemployment rates. Here’s how employers can help.

The July jobs report from the Labor Department shows that unemployment has dropped to 3.9 percent. Employers will need to develop new strategies to build successful workforces with unemployment is at its lowest rate since 2000.

The latest study from AARP gives employers some insight into a key demographic – older workers. AARP found that most experienced employees enjoy or feel useful doing their work, but more than 60 percent of them have witnessed or experienced age discrimination in the workplace. Over 40 percent of older job seekers are still asked for age-related information from potential employers.

Older employees are talented, tested and want to stay in the workforce. Employers who value experienced workers might have the advantage in today’s increasingly competitive labor market.

“With rich work histories, varied experiences and expertise, older workers want to work, they’re ready to work, and they need to work,” said AARP Vice President of Financial Resilience Susan Weinstock. “More employers are looking for qualified candidates and experienced workers should have the opportunity to be judged on their merits, rather than their age.”

The majority of experienced workers strongly support strengthening age discrimination laws, but until those laws are passed and implemented employers can help by addressing age discrimination within their own organizations.

If HR hasn’t received a complaint about age discrimination that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Less than five percent of older employees make a formal complaint to a supervisor, HR representative, another organization or a government agency.  

Commit to developing diverse, high-performing organizations by leveraging workers of all ages and join 650 employers who are doing the same by signing AARP’s Employer Pledge. Review and refine hiring practices so potential applicants can be confident their age won’t be the deciding factor in whether or not they get the job. Establish a policy against age discrimination in the workplace for the quarter of older workers who report being subjected to negative comments about their age from a boss or co-worker.

More than 90 percent of workers see age discrimination as somewhat or very common. It’s up to employers to tackle this issue directly until legislature catches up with appropriate age discrimination policies. Those employers that are up to the task will be in the best shape to face off with the lowest unemployment since the turn of the century.