Workplace diversity has been a hot topic for decades, but its importance has unquestionably accelerated in the early 2020s. Companies of all sizes across Connecticut recognize that they must not just talk the talk when it comes to diversity, but walk the walk, as well.
When we think about diversity in the workplace, we tend to think about racial, ethnic and gender diversity. But one area is often overlooked, and that is age diversity. Age diversity is just as important as any other form of diversity since people of different generations bring unique knowledge and depth of experience to the table. But why is age diversity something employers in Connecticut should consider focusing on?
Workplace Diversity Improves Company Outcomes
When you think about the positives of workplace diversity, including generational diversity, it should come as no surprise to learn companies that succeed in achieving a diverse and inclusive workplace actually outperform their homogeneous competition:
- Diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to report financial returns above industry averages.
- Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to report financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
- For every 10 percent increase in racial, ethnic, gender and age diversity among senior executives, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rise 0.8 percent.
- Diverse leadership teams are 36 percent more likely to be profitable.
So while diversity tends to be a hot topic in a social context, there are very real business benefits to embracing diversity – including age diversity in the workplace.
Today’s Workforce Is A Reflection of All Generations
Today, the American workforce includes a broad cross-section of ages, and Connecticut workplaces are no exception. You can find workers from five generations in the workplace today:
- The Silent Generation – born between 1925 and 1945
- Baby Boomers – born between 1946 and 1964
- Generation X – born between 1965 and 1980
- Millennials/Generation Y – born between 1981 and 1995
- Generation Z – born in 1996 and later
It may come as a shock that many older Americans are still working, but we are living longer than ever before. Many of these people work because they want to stay healthy and keep their minds sharp, or they wish to stave off retirement boredom or because their retirement savings isn’t quite what they expected. And in some cases, older Americans are still working because they are supporting their adult children who are still living at home.
Whatever the reasons that people are either pushing off retirement or going back to work part-time after retiring, the fact is that every generation represented in America today is also represented in the workplace. And while it might seem odd to have seniors collaborating with people who are barely old enough to purchase alcohol, there are very real benefits to cultivating a workplace that is age-diverse.
Check Your Age Stereotypes at the Door
“Experts” like to place labels and stereotypes on each generation. For example, Millennials are often considered to be entitled, flexible-schedule-wanting upstarts who value purpose over financial gain. Generation Z is currently being labeled the same way, only even more entitled and less inclined to work. A popular stereotype about Baby Boomers is that they are out of touch and lack tech savvy, that Generation X is aloof, cynical and values individual work over teamwork. And when it comes to the Silent Generation, people tend to gloss right over them, or assume they are all cheap due to Depression-era childhoods and are only working because they are still afraid they will lose all their money.
However, endless amounts of research show that these stereotypes are just that – stereotypes. Recently, the Department of Defense and George Washington University examined more than 20 studies on age disparity in the workplace. What they found was that significant differences between age groups don’t exist. The contrasts we often see at work have more to do with the clashing styles of the old and young, rather than different values.
Why Is Age Diversity in the Workplace So Important?
According to. SHRM Foundation Executive Briefing: Leveraging the Value of an Age-Diverse Workforce, a report published by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) Foundation and AARP, workplace diversity plays a critical role in organizational success. We laid out those points in a previous blog post, but here are three reasons why age diversity in the workplace is so important.
1 – Age Diversity in the Workplace Improves Performance and Productivity
According to SHRM and AARP, age diversity in the workplace can improve organizational performance. Studies show that productivity across all generations is higher in companies with mixed-age work teams, and age diversity improves complex decision-making among teams.
2 – Age Diversity In the Workplace Can Improve Retention
Employers have always struggled to reduce turnover rates, and employers in Connecticut are no exception. Another important – and surprising fact, according to SHRM and AARP, is that teams that are age-diverse report less employee turnover. This is often because people 55 and older tend to be more loyal to employers, and that loyalty can often create an example for younger workers.
3 – Age Diversity in the Workplace Increases Innovation
At first blush, it’s easy to assume that more seasoned veteran workers can be stuck in their ways and perspectives. And in many cases, that is probably true. But among age-diverse teams, people of various experiences, backgrounds, perspectives and lifestyles come together. Those differences actually drive productive conversations, healthy debates and drive innovation. The bottom line, according to SHRM and AARP – the most diverse organizations are usually the most innovative.
How to Manage A Multigenerational Workforce
We’ve talked about the ways that age-related stereotypes are wrong, but generational clashes are still common in the workplace. Here are tips you can use to get everyone pulling in the same direction:
- Create multigenerational project teams – Whenever possible, put project teams together that consist of people from different generations. We understand one another when we have the opportunity to get to know people who are different.
- Create a two-way mentoring program – All age groups have opportunities to learn from each other. Create two-way multigenerational mentoring programs with the goal of having each person learn from the other.
- Manage individuals – Don’t assume that all Millennials want constant feedback or that Gen Xers want to be left alone. Talk to your employees about their preferences and manage to the individual, not the generation.
Looking to Improve Workplace Diversity? Appeal to All Generations
As the old adage says, you can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. And no one knows that better than hiring managers and HR managers. However, companies in Connecticut can foster an environment where all generations feel their opinions are welcome and their contributions valued. Even though the overarching stereotypes about age can be wrong, there are some commonalities in each generation. Every generation has unique values and communications preferences. Employers can foster respect and understanding by:
- Setting clear expectations – Older generations may not agree with the informal dress code, communications, and email/texting culture of younger generations. Misunderstandings and resentment can be avoided when leaders match expectations to the culture of the workplace.
- Individualize interactions –Baby Boomers tend to value face-to-face and personal interaction. Gen X and Millennials are more likely to utilize text-based communication, email and video chat. Leadership should be familiar with emerging technology but should give employees a variety of communications options to choose from.
- Give employees opportunities to teach and learn from each other – All generations can learn something from the others. By setting up cross-collaboration opportunities for employees who might not normally interact with one another, employers can help break down some of the barriers between generations and give each an opportunity to teach and learn.
Want to Improve Age Diversity in Your Workplace? Partner With A Diversity Supplier in Connecticut
In addition to embracing age diversity in the workplace, A.R. Mazzotta also embraces the power of supplier diversity in our industry. Today, partner with minority-owned businesses like ours in an effort to gain benefits and build stronger communities.
A.R. Mazzotta is certified by the State of Connecticut Supplier Diversity Program as a Women-Owned, Small/Minority Business Enterprise, which allows businesses using our services to meet contract supplier diversity requirements. It’s a win-win for everyone. Learn more here, or contact us today to get started.