Age Diversity in the Workforce
When people think or talk about “hiring for diversity”, we likely think about efforts to hire more people with different ethnic background or hiring more female employees. However, diversity is not just about race and gender, it is also about age. Perhaps you have heard or read that for the first time in history, five generations – Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z, can potentially work together in an organization.
Although companies are aware of the importance of diversity and scrambled to hire an increasingly wide range of employees from various ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations, many organizations especially start-ups seem to ignore the importance of age diversity.
Ever watched “The Intern”, featuring a 70-year-old-man (played by Robert De Niro), who decided to work in a Millennial-filled company, run by a young CEO (played by Anne Hathaway)? Or maybe you have watched “The Internship”, which is about two salesmen (starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson), who attempted to compete with much younger and tech-savvy interns for a job at Google?
If you haven’t seen any of these films, we highly recommend them as they highlight the complexity of multi-generational work relationships.
In a career sense, these two films remind people that we are never too old to learn, nor are we too young to teach and vice versa.
Advantages of Hiring Mature Candidates
Everyone needs a mentor and the benefit of age diversity is the prospect of mentorship between older, more experienced employees and younger, less experienced ones. Younger employees gain insights and lessons from older employees, which can help them in their careers.
In “The Intern”, Robert De Niro becomes a valuable part of the team by giving advices to his fellow co-workers on everything from employee relations, dress code, professionalism and marketing.
In “The Internship” Vince and Owen advised their fellow interns that it’s ok to have fun, and sometimes by having fun great ideas and solutions are created. For example, a eureka moment came to them when they were all drunk. They decided to create an app with a series of quizzes that the user have to answer before he/she can send a message or call someone to determine how sober the user is.
#2 Continuity (Knowledge Management)
An organization that is composed of employees with diverse ages naturally have a larger knowledge base. On the other hand, an organization that is heavily composed of a particular age demographic runs the risk of becoming obsolete. Back in the days, it was normal for employees to remain with their companies for decades. Some people even stay in the same company until they retire. This means that they essentially possess invaluable knowledge of the organization’s history, traditions and client information. Thus, it is important that organizations find a way to transfer this knowledge to younger employees.
Think of this process as codification vs. personalization. Yes, many things can be stored in databases where it can be accessed and re-use by new and existing employees over and over again. However, knowledge and personal experience that is accumulated through years and years of working in a company can only be shared through person-to-person contacts/mentoring. Older employees can train younger employees through programs. So, when they retire, they don’t take all of their knowledge away with them.
#3 Different Skill Sets
An organization whose workforce is composed of different age demographics brings different skills and knowledge to the table. For instance, the older and more mature employees have exceptional interpersonal skills. They perform well in situations and business meetings where traditional face-to-face communication is used. They have experienced recessions, have seen reorganizations and have been through personal and professional crises. Therefore, they can remain calm and sensible when rougher times occur. On the other hand, younger employees are tech savvy. They know how to use high-tech business mediums like different social media channels and how they can be used to create brand awareness or create online product demonstrations with various programs.
People live longer today and as a result older employees tend to delay their retirement. Moreover, the importance of education is also changing. Millennials and Generation Z are focusing more on getting work and life experiences rather than taking a higher academic degree. Giving organizations the opportunity to hire and gather skilled individuals to create a diverse workforce. However, not all companies have managed to adapt to this change. Especially when it comes to start-ups that more or less hire younger employees. If an organization wants to compete, a diverse workforce is an advantage as it gives companies the opportunity to offer different solutions to clients and caters to a multigenerational demographic.