Age is just a number, right? These days, you can’t open a publication on the world of work without seeing the word “Millennial” a thousand times. As the generation born between the early 1980s to the early 2000s continue to enter the workforce, companies are attempting to figure out what works for these employees and what doesn’t. However, in the rush to recruit and retain the latest generation entering the workforce, many organizations are forgetting that older generations are also vying for jobs and can make positive contributions to organizations.
With Millennials entering the workforce and boomers not leaving anytime soon, how can you make sure you capitalize on age diversity in your workplace?
I mean just think about it. The recession hit in 2008 and caused waves upon waves of unemployment. Some regions and countries are still recovering. Many of these people had their jobs for years, and within a couple of months, they were living off an unemployment check in an almost non-existent job market. On one side you have an entire generation coming into the workforce, while on the other you have generations who can no longer retire as planned yet are increasingly laid off more than other generations. And the same can be applied to the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic implications we have already and will continue to experience for the foreseeable.
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Integrating through the ages…like, actual ages.
Millennials are often chided for being selfish and nonsensical when it comes to work, yet a growing body of literature is proving the opposite. The same is true of boomers. Most people assume that it’s youth that drives innovation, yet research shows that only about 6% of innovators tend to be under the age of 30. On the subject of age and tech, research from Visier found that people in tech that are over 40 are “increasingly likely to receive a Top Performer rating as they age” in comparison to non-tech folks.
Millennials are often credited for being society’s disruptors, prioritizing social equality, and wanting to change the world, Boomers were famous for the same qualities a few decades ago
However, as Quartz further points out, there still seems to be one thing when it comes to these discussions: a “dissonance between generations.” They go on to describe how ageism is becoming more rampant while depression in Millennials is rising. In other words, people just don’t seem to understand the facts about generations and work, only relying on assumptions and non-truths.
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Moreover, it seems like companies really don’t know what to do with these different age groups, which leads to an issue when building a productive, innovative workforce. Companies fail to see the similarities and can easily assume that age does matter (in all the wrong ways).
As the same Quartz article explains: “Generational values are also aligned. Although Millennials are often credited for being society’s disruptors, prioritizing social equality, and wanting to change the world, Boomers were famous for the same qualities a few decades ago, when civil rights and the Vietnam War brought them into the streets.”
Older generations have a wealth of experience to share with younger generations, and younger generations want to learn and be involved. To actually seize the opportunities that emerge from multiple generations working in your company, your HR and management need to understand how to emphasize these shared value and goals. As much as this is an old piece, Rebecca Knight gives some great tips on creating a cooperative space that are still relevant to us today:
- Don’t focus only on the differences amongst generations
- Create and support collaborative relationships with your employees
- Get to know and study your employees
- Ensure there are opportunities for cross-generational activities
- Take into account your employees’ life paths
Facilitating generational cohesion
These tips are also a bit common sense. HR and management should always ensure diversity is supported as well as having an open and transparent workplace. Doing this can open opportunities for professional growth in your workplace. You can also cultivate great inter-generational through mentorship programs and collaborative working groups.
Try to create an optimal environment for a multigenerational workforce and your company will do better because of it. Don’t be ignorant and fall for the stereotypes around age, young or old. Supporting a such a dynamic workplace can only create timeless results.
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