A more diverse workforce is known to be happier and more productive; but age and agism still carries a stigma. The consequences go far beyond individual ethics.
As the tides of progress continue to sweep the industry, companies are recognising the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. While much attention is given to gender and race, age diversity in the workplace is a topic that is often left out in the cold. Yet, in the current longevity economy, where people are living longer and working beyond retirement age, age diversity has become a crucial factor in cultivating a truly inclusive—and productive—environment. This diverse workforce encompasses a blend of generations, ranging from the innovative Gen Z to the flexible millennials and experienced baby boomers who have the opportunity to rejoin the workforce.
Why age diversity matters
The longevity economy is a growing field that encompasses the economic opportunities and challenges associated with an ageing population. As the number of people over the age of 60 continues to rise globally, there is an increasing need to address the needs and preferences of this demographic group.
People are living longer, healthier lives, but retirement does not now evenly match this trend. Couple this with the ramifications of a higher health burden an ageing population represents and a higher tax burden for those still in the workforce, and age diversity in the workplace offers a triple-point solution.
Older workers can also bring a wealth of experience and knowledge, while younger workers can offer new perspectives and ideas, and the shared collaboration promotes better working cultures. Benefits of age diversity in the workplace
As the workforce ages, it’s important to value what the older workers bring to their teams from experience and reliability, to mentoring and diversity. These are some of the key benefits of having a multigenerational workforce:
- Diversity of ideas and innovation: Different age groups at the company have different life experiences, values and ways of thinking that can foster creativity, innovation and problem solving. For example: an older worker may bring a wealth of industry knowledge and experience while a younger worker may bring new ideas and technological expertise. By working together these employees can complement each other’s strengths.
- Improved workforce participation: By encouraging retired people back into the workforce, countries can increase their overall workforce participation rate, which can help boost economic growth and productivity, and a clear win for age diversity in the workplace.
- Economic productivity: A diverse workforce can help companies develop new products and services, improve processes and better understand and meet the needs of customers from different age groups. This could increase sales and revenue. For example: when a company that develops home appliances may benefit from having a multigenerational workforce and understanding the needs and preferences of different age group, this will lead the company to develop products that cater to a wide range of customers
- Improved problem-solving: this could result by bringing together employees with different skills, knowledge and experiences; by working together employees can identify and address challenges more effectively.
- Transfer of knowledge and skills: older workers can mentor and train younger employees and at the same time younger workers can bring fresh ideas and approaches to the table, helping older workers learn and adapt to new technologies and trends.
Ageism is a sign of age discrimination in the workplace that can lead to a negative impact on both employees and a company. Biassed hiring practices, age-related comments, limited opportunities for training and development, unequal treatment and negative performance reviews can lead to a lack of diversity, decreased productivity and increased turnover costs. These impacts can decrease job satisfaction and innovation, negatively impacting the company's ability to compete. For society to reap the benefits of age diversity in the workplace, these need to be reviewed.
Promoting age diversity in the workplace
To accelerate inclusivity, members of the C-suite should challenge age-based biases and recognise the value that workers of all ages can bring to the table. Here are some strategies for promoting age diversity:
- Establish a policy: Employers can start by clearly defining acts of age discrimination and create instructions on how company leaders and HR should address instances, and make sure all employees are aware of this policy.
- Review recruitment practices to ensure candidates from all age groups are attracted. For example, advertising job vacancies on platforms or in formats that are popular among older jobseekers can help to broaden the applicant pool.
- Create work environments that support the needs of all employees, including those with differing abilities that may develop with age.
- Offering mentorship programmes and training for workers of all ages to prompt knowledge sharing; mentoring and reverse mentoring can be incredibly good bonding mechanisms for your teams.
- Offering flexible working arrangements, such as part-time or remote work options, this could help older workers balance work and caregiving responsibilities.
As older workers’ potential to contribute to business growth and innovation becomes more appealing, the ethical and practical benefits of age diversity in the workplace only increase, too. This is what the longevity economy promises. It is essential that companies provide them with opportunities to learn and develop new skills. The rapid pace of technological change means that workers of all ages need to stay up to date with the latest tools and practices, and theC-suite should take proactive steps to challenge ageism biases, ensure recruitment practices are inclusive of all age groups and create a culture that values workers from all ages.
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