The need for diversity – having people of different ethnicities, sexual orientation, religions, disability statuses, and ages contribute to the organization – is high across sectors. PwC reports that 64% of CEOs have a strategy to promote diversity and inclusion (D&I). However, not all markers of diversity are equally emphasized upon. A crucial one here is age.
Five generations are present in today’s workforce, from the Silent one (born between 1925 and 1942) to Gen Z (born mid-1990s and later). Many mature employees want to remain active and engaged for years beyond what was once the typical retirement age. Yet, only 8% of organizations include age as a part of their D&I strategies, largely because assumptions about the capabilities of different age groups take over our decision-making. What we need to keep in mind instead – that age is a number, not a credential.
The business and operational experience of mature workers goes a long way in adding to the health and stability of an organization. It adds a layer of knowledge that the younger generations can benefit from.
To bring out the best from different generations, we first need to build and sustain a workforce where we consciously welcome different age groups. Because the fear of losing jobs due to older age is real for 43% of the workforce. Efforts to be age-diverse isn’t just a goodwill initiative. Research demonstrates that age diversity can improve organizational performance and has the potential to lower employee turnover. Moreover, mixed generational groups make complex decisions faster, and have more innovative approaches to problems, because of the expanse of knowledge.
Wondering how to usher in such advantages? Let’s look at how other organizations are doing it right:
- Cross-generational mentoring. PNC Financial Services is committed to full engagement and respect for each worker. They have a range of employee engagement programs, and their most popular one – iGen – focuses on intergenerational issues and provides a more natural way to transfer knowledge from older generations to younger. They help employees navigate the corporate culture, network, and increase employee engagement. This, through structured and frequent sharing of career experiences and best practices. That’s a quick path to lasting learning!
- Training for re-entry into the workforce. One of the biggest challenges for people aged above 50 is finding a path to a job after not being employed for a while. Centrica is addressing this gap through a program called HitReturn for senior-level professionals who want to return to the workforce after a break of two or more years. Candidates participate in 12- week paid ‘returnships’ that offer professional assignments, expert coaching, and mentors. Participation does not guarantee a permanent job but improves its possibility.
While all of this is true, there is another angle to diversity within an organization – being representative of your client base. Do you mirror what you want to achieve outside the company? This is a call to step-up.