Age diversity in the workplace is not a new concept. It is just overlooked. When it comes to employee diversity, specific characteristics such as gender, race, religion, ethnicity, and education often come to mind. However, age diversity is an aspect that should not be ignored.
Let us tell you why. Owing to rising longevity and flexible working models, it is not unusual for an organization today to have four generations of workers. Several other contributing trends account for age diversity in workplaces, such as:
- People are switching careers late in life
- People are choosing to work until much later in life than before
- An increasing number of people cannot afford to retire due to financial constraints
Within a broad generational group, the needs of employees are different based on factors such as tenure with the organization, job type, and job level. That is why there is an obligation to cultivate a work environment that recognizes the value and contribution of workers of all ages.
This article discusses what age diversity in the workplace looks like, its benefits and challenges, and the top tips to promote it. Let us begin:
What is age diversity?
In simple words, it is the acceptance of employees of all age groups in a workforce. Typically, there are four primary generations currently active in today’s workforce:
- Baby boomers: They are highly goal-oriented and seek advancement in their careers. Baby boomers value in-person interaction and hierarchy in the workplace. They are between the ages of 55 and 75.
- Generation X: They are fast approaching the midpoint of their careers and potential peak-earning years. Gen X is the first generation with both parents working outside the home. They are hard-working and adaptable. They are between the ages of 40 and 60.
- Millennials (Generation Y): This generation is achievement-oriented, tech-savvy, and focused on using their professional careers to better the world. They seem to make their work mean more than just a paycheck. They are between the ages of 20 and 40.
- Generation Z: The youngest of the lot, Gen Z is the most motivated by salary and considered resourceful. They are the first true digital natives and grew up in the internet age. They are between the ages of 18 and 25.
Each of these generations has different preferences, working styles, and strengths influenced by the world they grew up in, their professional experiences, and their life stage.
Until recently, the older workforce has been discriminated against by being excluded from job opportunities and decision-making processes because of their perceived or actual age.
However, research shows that the employment rate of employees between the ages 55 and 64 is increasing rapidly due to labor shortages that the economy faces.
Age-based diversity is similar to generational diversity in the way it seeks to combat age discrimination. Bringing all age groups to work together harmoniously can boost productivity, improve leadership, and help the organization grow profitably.
Benefits of age diversity in the workplace
Every generation contributes its skills and knowledge to the organization. Even though younger employees may have a stronger hold on technology, older employees might possess superior interpersonal abilities. Combining these qualities can improve the organization as a whole. Here are the top five benefits you can achieve with an age-diverse workforce:
1. Reduce employee turnover
Employees over 55 can contribute to decreased turnover because they are loyal and tend to stay in their positions for a more extended period than the younger workforce. On the other hand, organizations benefit from decreased turnover costs and retaining highly skilled and experienced staff.
2. Drive more significant innovation
Age diversity in the workplace means varied experiences and points of view, which can become a source of innovation. By pulling together the strengths and experiences of all workers, you can foster a culture of creative thinking. This can lead to more innovative projects and ultimately increase profits for companies.
3. Boost employee performance and productivity
Organizations with age-diverse teams perform better. That is because when older and younger employees work together on challenging decision-making activities, they combine their talent and experience to work more productively and efficiently, and achieve better results.
4. Provide traditional business skills
Hiring older employees enriches your company with traditional business skills that help you effectively reach different customer types. For instance, a more senior employee with tried and tested sales techniques will succeed with customers who prefer the traditional forms of contact. Sometimes, older tactics or skills rule.
5. Roll out a mentoring platform
Age diversity in workplaces encourages mentoring. Older employees can use their experience to teach the younger folks the ropes of the game. Similarly, the younger workforce can teach the more senior employees new technology or industry-related skills. When an organization values continued learning, employees of all age groups have the opportunity to teach and mentor.
Common challenges that age diversity brings to the table
Although the benefits of an age-diverse workforce exceed the challenges, it is good to be aware of them before they become a huge problem and require intervention.
Misunderstandings are perhaps a leading issue that arises from generational gaps, with poor communication coming a close second. When employees struggle to communicate effectively with their colleagues or superiors, or they feel they are misunderstood at work, it can affect morale, productivity, and overall job performance. That is human nature.
Moreover, older employees have a lot of experience, so they ask for seniority, which is fine. They have a solid skillset and industry knowledge vital for organizational growth, and they know they are not answerable to the younger employees.
This perception can make older employees challenging to work with, especially if they think of the younger lot as unworthy or feel threatened by them. Similarly, the younger members of the workforce may feel their opinions or ideas are not being given much importance.
That drives a wedge between the two generations and gives rise to resentment. Therefore, it is essential to consider the implications of age diversity in the workplace and ensure you have the suitable systems, tools, and processes to support and respect everyone equally.
Protect your workforce from preventable issues and be ready to offer support before an escalation happens.
4 tips to promote age diversity in the workplace
Age diversity is nothing new, nor is the generational gap. Outlooks, behaviors, attitudes, and expectations will continue to vary from generation to generation. But we live in a world striving hard to be more empathetic and understanding.
Despite the different preferences, upbringing, preferences, and working styles of an age-diverse workforce, there is little evidence that suggests that each generation needs to be managed or motivated differently.
But given the challenges we explored in the section above, the proper planning and consideration are necessary to leverage the individual strengths of your workforce and compete more effectively in the market. Let us understand how you can create a culture that is supportive of every one in four ways:
1. Create an age-inclusive hiring process
First things first. Do not be biased and employ people from a specific age bracket. Instead, be open to receiving resumes from everyone — regardless of how old they are. It is their experience that matters.
Age bias can be removed in the hiring process with techniques such as skill testing and blanket resumes. Using a pre-employment assessment platform such as Adaface, set up 45-min long candidate-friendly tests to gauge the applicant’s technical skills, reasoning, or cognitive abilities.
You need to make sure that they perform tasks relevant to the role and showcase their abilities in the process. This helps you filter those profiles that live up to the promise of the resume irrespective of their age.
2. Be strategic with your benefits
If you hire age-diverse candidates, please ensure the benefits package is tailored-made to their specific requirements. For instance, baby boomers may be interested in working with companies that provide savings check-ups, professional coaching, and phased recruitment programs. Alternatively, millennials are more likely to prefer student loan repayment assistance, flexible work options, and healthcare plans. Be strategic with your benefits.
3. Provide thoughtful learning and development opportunities
Internships and apprentice programs are often only open to new graduates or those employees with a few years of experience. But by offering training programs where even older employees can apply, you could instill a diverse work culture.
The thing is, people want to learn specific skills for all kinds of reasons. Maybe they are looking to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to start a family and missed learning the new digital marketing trends in the meantime.
Maybe their university did not offer coding courses, and now they realize that is a skill that will help them do their current job better. It would be best to give all your employees an equal opportunity to learn. Do not assume that everyone starts from the same baseline.
You could also run reciprocal mentoring programs where older workers mentor younger ones and vice versa so that everyone learns from each other and remains engaged with the organization.
4. Offer flexible workplace schedules
Instead of categorizing your employees as “old” or “young,” think about where each person stands in their life and how best you can support them. For instance, offering flexible working hours is one way to help your workforce do their job without getting stressed.
Employees who are also parents can design their workday around their children and still perform efficiently at work. Employees who have taken up a part-time/evening course can work from home – managing office work and studies properly.
Older employees with mobility issues may prefer working from home rather than commuting. Offering flexible work schedules will make your organization attractive to employees of all ages! Why not make their lives comfortable?
Over to you
Age diversity in the workplace can create friction between employees and foster poor communication and inefficiency. However, that is where you as an organization have to create an environment that treats all employees — regardless of their age — equally.
If you run a business where your entire workforce works perfectly together, that will elevate your overall performance, increase sales, and boost your branding in the market! Invest in a culture that values employees in their 50s, 60s, and 70s!