We tend to focus on gender and ethnicity but diversity in terms of age is also important. So what are the advantages of age diversity and how can businesses successfully cultivate it?
With populations and workforces ageing around the world, multigenerational workforces are becoming more common. Employees span four generations or more and maybe aged anywhere from 16 to 60-plus. Focusing on age diversity as well as factors like gender and ethnicity can help you create a productive, dynamic workplace that’s inclusive, innovative, and successful.
Companies with age-diverse workforces can benefit from the maturity, experience, and varied perspective and skillsets of their teams. Age-smart employers understand the benefits of fostering diversity in age. They take measures to target and retain talent regardless of their age.
Whether you’re already managing an age-diverse organisation or looking to build a more diverse one, these insights will prove to be useful.
Advantages of age diversity in the workplace
Age diversity in your workplace can deliver diversity in skill sets, mentoring opportunities, and improved performance outcomes.
Age diversity offers your organisation the opportunity to draw upon different skill sets, talents, and perspectives. More mature, experienced team members might contribute outstanding communication and interpersonal skills.
On the other hand, younger staff might be able to provide in-depth knowledge of specific technology tools. For example, these could be skills that help harness customer engagement channels like social media and videocasting.
In turn, this variety in skill sets and perspectives can create a more dynamic working environment where diversity in individual team members encourages synergy and increases worker effectiveness.
A multigenerational workforce provides experienced as well as younger workers with rich mentoring opportunities. Older employees can gain teaching and sharing experience whilst younger employees have the opportunity to learn from more experienced mentors.
Mentoring enables the sharing of knowledge, experience, and skills. It supports younger workers with one-on-one opportunities to ask questions and can build their confidence.
Older staff members can gain a sense of satisfaction from contributing as mentors. Overall, it can encourage a more cohesive company culture that is supportive and helpful.
Having come of age in a technology-saturated world, your younger employees could be more likely to be technologically savvy. Hiring younger employees to work alongside more mature employees could encourage sharing of tech skills as well as a tech-centric culture in your organisation.
This could enhance everything from your operations to customer service, as your teams become astute and enthusiastic about adopting and using new technology tools. It could see your company becoming more competitive and dynamic in the use of tech in all facets of its daily activities.
At the same time, it’s important to be aware of generalisations. Individual older, mature workers could be just as likely to be enthusiastic and proficient at technology.
Succession and continuity
Any organisation that recruits only from a narrow age group runs the risk of obsolescence. Businesses that hire and retain only young workers have no or fewer mentoring opportunities.
Your older employees are a rich resource of knowledge, skills, and experience that can be passed on to younger employees, who eventually succeed to the older employees’ roles when the time for retirement arrives.
Similarly, companies that focus on mature workers may end up with few employees who can pass on cultural knowledge of the business. This is in addition to other competencies, skills, and experience. These elements not only allow the company to serve its customers effectively but also to retain a cohesive business culture.
The younger generation of workers could be more likely to embrace new technology and be more knowledgeable about business technology. However, older employees might be stronger in terms of traditional business skills, especially building effective one-on-one, interpersonal relationships.
This diversity in your teams can be vital when it comes to customer-facing roles. It can also be important for understanding customers of all demographics.
For example, you may have certain customers who prefer communication via phone rather than chat or social media. Beyond customer interactions, a multigenerational workforce may be more successful at designing and delivering products and services that speak to all generations.
Performance and innovation
Multigenerational workforces may be linked to higher productivity, performance, and innovation. Companies with mixed-age work teams experience higher productivity from their workers, both the older and younger ones. Age-diverse teams are also associated with better performance when it comes to tasks involving complex decision-making.
The differences and variations in perspectives from your mixed-aged teams could also lead to better ideas, which in turn could drive innovation, creativity, and dynamism. Firms with more older workers experience a boost in productivity, and the experience of older workers enhances the performance of younger workers.
The diversity of shared knowledge from experience may lead to novel solutions for problems, leading to higher productivity. Higher productivity can result in improved productivity, branding, market share, and much more.
Age diversity might help reduce employee turnover, just as general cultural diversity assists with this. This means your business might be more successful at retaining more mature, experienced employees as well as younger staff members.
An organisation with high turnover can suffer lower worker morale in addition to incurring the high costs associated with recruiting to replace departing employees. Mixed-aged teams are often more productive, which can contribute to worker satisfaction. In turn, this could reduce turnover.
Diversity in terms of age as well as other qualities like gender, race, and ability could contribute to your organisation’s resilience and boost your competitive advantage. A more diverse workforce with employees who bring a range of skills and experience can be more dynamic.
It can be more responsive to changes in the external environment, such as customer preferences, the economic cycle, and new competitors. As such, the more diverse your workforce, the stronger and more adaptable your business might become.
Strategies for cultivating age diversity
You can indirectly foster age diversity through optimising remuneration, culture, and other facets of your organisation, in addition to hiring mature, experienced workers.
Hire experienced workers
If your organisation has a high proportion of graduates and those early in their careers, why not consider hiring more experienced workers? Introducing greater diversity in this way enables you to build mixed-age teams that are associated with higher productivity and effectiveness.
This can then drive your business to greater success whilst possibly also helping you serve a broader range of demographics in your customer base.
Support work-life balance
Encourage work-life balance for everyone. Employees, regardless of age bracket, highly value employers that provide leeway for a better work-life balance. Overworking your employees can make them less productive and it could result in a higher turnover as well.
Offer training and development
Both young and mature workers value career progression. The opportunity to learn new skills at work not only makes them more effective in their current role, it equips them with the competencies to enable them to progress. Training and development can address turnover in this way and help you retain your valued workers and maintain an age-diverse workforce.
A good percentage of workers, both younger and older, have encountered age discrimination in the workplace. Diversity training specifically on age discrimination is another training-related approach that can build a stronger, more cohesive multigenerational organisation. It ensures your staff address any discriminatory attitudes and behaviours they might not have been aware of.
Provide competitive remuneration packages
Workers across all age brackets value a good salary and competitive remuneration. Ensure your pay packages are fair and you’re not underpaying valued employees. This minimises the risk of you losing valuable staff members across all age groups.
Find out what your staff value the most and offer the perks they want. Often these perks are affordable. Even better, they could cost next to nothing and help boost productivity and morale.
For example, flexible work or the option to work some of the time from home is highly attractive to employees. Casual dress days are another example. Something as simple as allowing your staff to dress the way they’d like gives them the freedom to be more relaxed at work.
Build an inclusive company culture
As many as nine out of ten over-50s believe ageism is prevalent in the workplace. As such, inclusive company culture is essential to a successful age-diverse working environment. The key to supporting a strong culture of inclusivity is communication.
Regular catch-ups, company-wide emails, and presentations keep your teams updated. You can use the opportunity to emphasise a culture of inclusivity. For example, you could highlight the contributions of staff members of different ages.
Second, provide staff with opportunities to interact and socialise outside of work. Fun events like Christmas parties, company retreats, game days, group lunches, and drinks after work can support a stronger work culture and make every team member feel more included.
Encourage helpful, supportive behaviours and give recognition to employees who go out of their way to support others. Seek feedback and take action where appropriate. Finally, give your team members lots of opportunities to shine and reward them with recognition and other rewards when they do well.
Facilitate cross-generational communication
You can encourage cross-generational communication among your employees in a number of ways. Promote open-door policies where employees are welcome to approach each other when they have any issues, questions, or challenges they want a fresh perspective on.
Emphasise respect by communicating rules for conduct and guidance policies on communications. In addition, introduce formal mentorship programs. Assign mentors and mentees to each other, and provide guidance for both parties on how their interactions can be mutually beneficial.
Encourage more experienced employees to check in on newer employees, and create age-diverse groups for projects. Finally, managers should make an effort to work with every employee as if they’re a partner and respect their experience, no matter how many years in the workforce they have.
Encourage different work styles
You can also foster a stronger age-diverse workplace by allowing for different work styles. Where possible, give employees the freedom to work as they like so you can set them up to produce their best work.
Work styles can vary from individual to individual, but there could be commonalities among those of the same age bracket. For example, older staff members might prefer to communicate in person or on the phone. Younger employees could prefer chat, email, and text for their interactions.
Work hours are another work-style element to address. Your older employees might prefer to work on-site most of the time and be more comfortable working longer hours. Younger employees might have a preference for hybrid work schedules with more flex time. Either way, don’t assume based on age, find out what individual employees prefer, and try to be accommodating.
Refine your recruitment process
Review how you’re undertaking recruitment so it’s inclusive of all ages. You’ll want to be hiring the best employees for each job.
Avoid overlooking certain candidates due to “cultural fit” or other reasons that could hint at an underlying preference for younger employees who are a “better fit.”. Check in with your hiring managers and ensure they’re working on the right assumptions.
Provide hiring managers and interviewers with training so they’re hiring with age diversity in mind. Leverage different types of recruiting channels and tools so you can reach out to a broader group of candidates.
Write inclusive job descriptions so you can attract a diverse field of applicants. It might be a good idea to deliberately remove personal data and age-related information from every step so everyone involved in the hiring process can “hire blind.”
Age diversity is good for business. You can apply these strategies in any organisation, large or small.
Varied skillsets, mentoring and continuity benefits and lower turnover are some of the benefits of age diversity. Higher performance and greater organisational resilience are also associated with a mixed-age workforce.
Focus on hiring experienced workers and introduce “blind hiring” processes. Provide training and development along with competitive remuneration to retain valuable staff.
Allow for a degree of freedom when it comes to working styles and arrangements. Encourage cross-generational communication, and work to foster an inclusive culture that welcomes and supports all employees.
By applying these strategies, your organisation should reap the numerous benefits of having a multigenerational team.