Why is it important to promote age diversity in the workplace?

Age is a characteristic which impacts everyone throughout their career, whether they are starting out or preparing for retirement.

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What is age diversity?

Age is protected in law under the Equality Act 2010, with age discrimination being defined as people being treated unfairly because of their age, or because they are part of a particular age group.

Age diversity is an important part of an inclusive, diverse and effective workplace. The average workplace now includes members of at least four – possibly five (listed below) - generations, so companies that embrace all ages are more likely to succeed.

  • The Silent Generation (1928-1945)
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
  • Gen X (1965-1980)
  • Millennials (1981-1996)
  • Gen Z (1997-2012)

Age diversity within the workplace is an acceptance of different ages within a business or professional environment.

When this is achieved a company will have age equality within its workforce.

Why is age diversity important? 

It is vital businesses realise that a multi-generational workforce leads to knowledge sharing and an increased variety of perspectives.

Here are a few reasons why age equality and age diversity in the workplace are so important:

  • Age diversity improves performance

If your company is looking to increase productivity, then it is vital to create mixed-age work teams to help solve complex decision-making tasks.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said: “Genuine inclusion boosts workforce diversity, helps address skill and labour shortages and benefits an organisation’s reputation and brand.”

  • Age diversity reduces employee turnover

High employee turnover is expensive and can be damaging to morale. Age diversity within the workplace improves such turnover rates by keeping all workers happy and motivated.

This means more skilled and experienced employees will stay in your business.

Employees who are aged 55 or older are also generally more loyal, contributing further to a lower employee turnover.

  • Age diversity drives innovation

Age diversity in the workplace leads to a variety of experiences and points of views among workers.

Such different perspectives can become a source of innovation, and by pulling together a range of different strengths companies can foster creative, knowledgeable, and forward-thinking teams.

  • Age diversity offers a variety of skillsets

Every generation can bring its own unique skills to a business.

While younger employees may have a better grasp on new technology, older workers may have strong interpersonal skills.

Of course, it is really important not to make generalisations when thinking about such skillsets. An older worker could easily be an IT whizz, while their younger counterpart is friendly, open and a fantastic networker (but can’t open a Word document!).

In any case, by properly analysing and combining the skills of an age diverse workforce your company will become stronger.

How can companies promote age diversity?

There are several things businesses can do to promote age equality and age diversity in the workplace:

  • Understand how many people fit into each age demographic, as well as how different generational groups interact
  • Work to bring people together for example by organising age inclusive socials or encourage your team to take lunch together
  • Recruit from a diverse pool of people and use recruitment agencies which have a focus on diversity, apprenticeships and return to work schemes
  • Avoid excluding potential candidates by specifying a number of years experience required in job specifications
  • Remove references to age on candidate CVs
  • Use interview panels which have age diversity within them
  • Work to retain older workers by introducing internal mobility policies such as flexible working, improved and additional training, and mentorship schemes

It is also important for companies to avoid pitfalls such as unconscious bias, hiring people known by employees who may mirror their age group, overlooking the benefits of age diversity and the impact of age vulnerability such as the fear of new technology.

How can younger staff be more inclusive of older staff (and vice versa)?

Age diversity in the workplace can encourage really successful mentoring schemes – something which can work both ways.

Older workers can use their years of experience in the workforce to teach younger employees the ropes, while younger employees can teach new technology or industry-related skills to older workers.

When a company values continued learning and skill building, employees of all ages can teach and progress.

These kind of scheme means both older and younger workers will gain new perspectives and better understanding of their colleagues.

If such mentoring is combining with the above-listed methods of recruitment and inclusive ways of working and socialising, then it is truly possible for younger workers to be inclusive of younger staff, and vice-versa.

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