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Why you need generational diversity at your organization

October 17, 2019
Diversity & Inclusion

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Ageism continues to be a challenge in modern organizations, with an apparent dissonance between what older workers expect and how they are perceived.

Today, we consider how ageism is holding back generational diversity and discuss:

  • The generational diversity situation today
  • Three benefits of generational diversity
  • How to make generational diversity integral to your workplace
  • Why it’s time to break down age barriers

As organizations look at embracing digitalization at a rapid pace, an unconscious preference for younger workers may creep in. They are seen as technology-savvy and more open to change. However, this could lead to a disproportionate age demographic in your workforce.

On the other hand, the global population of people aged 65 and above is rising fast. It may be incorrect to assume that these professionals want to retire. In fact, a 2019 study by Aviva, an insurance provider, found that 61% of the 65+-year-old workforce isn’t ready to stop working.

This is why it is so essential to build work environments that are conducive to professionals of every age, positioning talent and personality as the only benchmark for eligibility.

The Generational Diversity Situation Today
We often find ourselves talking about how millennials will take over the workplace and the need for HR to embrace this change. But what happens to those on the other end of the spectrum? Are they receiving adequate support in their career goals, or is transitioning into the retirement phase the only priority for organizations?

Here are a few revealing facts that shed light on this change.

Over a third of employees surveyed by Aviva believe that ageism is still alive in the workplace; only 19% of employers surveyed are concerned about it.
Reports suggest that even employees in tech in their mid-30s feel the impact of ageism.

Addressing generational diversity in the workplace isn’t just a question of ethics. While millennials and Gen Zers bring unique traits and abilities to the workplace, older employees also have a lot to contribute.

In fact, a study shows that different generations have more in common than you might expect. 65% of employees are looking for financial security, 51% want to feel passionate about their work, and 49% are eager to achieve work-life balance. And these are results from a study covering employees across a 40-year age divide.

It is time to shed outmoded notions on the impact of age and foster a work environment that allows employees of every age realize their full potential.

3 Benefits of Generational Diversity You Can’t Ignore
Diversity goes beyond mere corporate policy or strengthening your employer brand. It can add to your bottom line in distinct, tangible ways:

1. Ready leadership

Developing young employees from a blank slate into capable leaders takes significant time, effort, and investment. On the other hand, more senior professionals will have experience of working with dynamic teams in a variety of scenarios. While not everyone may be equipped for (or interested in) leadership roles, it is a good idea to create a succession plan that combines generational diversity with measurable experience.

2. Customer understanding

Unless you’re selling to a very narrow audience, chances are that baby boomers form a significant part of your customer demographic. Older employees can help ideate, brainstorm, and create product concepts that are most conducive to adoption across a broad cross-section of the population.

This is reaffirmed by the fact that baby boomer spending is continually rising. Visa estimates that this age group will comprise the majority of consumer spends in the U.S. for the next decade. Having a workforce that’s able to relate to these consumers on some level can be a significant added advantage.

3. Training and mentorship

This one is a no-brainer. In a generationally diverse workforce, you have more professionals who have been employed for a longer time and have thus gained a deeper understanding of a particular industry. They can function as in-house coaches, reducing L&D spends while encouraging engagement between different generations. For areas that are recently emerging (for example, cloud technology, AI, blockchain, etc.) younger workers can teach their coaches. This, in turn, hones their training and leadership skills.

So how do you encourage generational diversity in the workplace? Let’s look at some practical, actionable tips.

How to Make Generational Diversity Integral to Your Workplace
It isn’t enough to only institute changes at the policy level. As demonstrated by research, employees continue to feel the impact of ageism, despite legal checks and balances. HR can partner with the C-suite to bring about positive change when it comes to generational diversity – here’s how:

1. Survey employees to offer generation-sensitive benefits

By conducting pulse surveys across your workforce, you can understand how each generation prioritizes certain benefits. For example, a millennial might appreciate the chance to work as a digital nomad, while someone older might be looking for company equity. It is advisable not to make assumptions either way and implement regular surveys to meet specific employee needs.

2. Use diversity hiring tools

There are several recruitment apps available focused on diversity hiring. For instance, SeekOut specializes in technology recruitment with an eye on generational (and other forms of) diversity. SeekOut uses AI to conduct blind hiring, gathering data from LinkedIn, GitHub, and other sources. This ensures that you can maintain generational diversity across the workforce, from the get-go.

3. Leverage technology to facilitate diversity training

Generational diversity, like other workplace policies, could gain significantly from proactive employee training. Next-gen technologies such as AR/VR can be used for diversity training and can help build empathy between different generations, creating a common ground for them to interact and engage. Several L&D tools focus on diversity training, including microlearning and new-recruit onboarding courses.

It’s Time to Break Down Age Barriers
The notion that millennials are change-ready, innovation-focused, and more open to new ideas is largely a myth. Biases like this could cause more harm than good, limiting your talent pool to a very specific demographic. On the other hand, a workplace that embraces generational diversity can learn from multiple generations of insights – not to mention reinforce the employer band.

As digitalization becomes a formidable force for workplaces across the globe, it is more important than ever before to turn our attention towards positive social outcomes. Generational diversity is integral to this vision, combining ethically sensitive contributions with long term profitability.

What steps have you taken to foster generational diversity at your workplace?

By Chiradeep BasuMallick

Source: HR Technologist

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