Diversity is a hot topic in today’s society. Organisations go through enormous shifts due to being faced by external factors such as digitalization or increased global competitiveness. What we see is that the phrase “Promoting Diversity” seems to pop-up in every company’s mission statement. But are all those company really serious about this and channel financial resources to fostering diversity? Might there not be the possibility that clever HR managers also know that young, well-educated talents look for a workplace that offers diverse, new, exciting and challenging tasks? Let me explain to you why I come up with such a teasing thesis: In order to achieve real diversity, a company’s employee profile should represent widely differing individuals with respect to ethnicity, gender, personality and age. Exactly – age is one of the dimensions that promotes diversity, thus innovative thinking and increased efficiency. Why is it then that some company focus heavily on establishing internship schemes and graduate binding programmes but scarcely engage in creating a more elderly-friendly workspace?
This Australian consultancy’s advertisement video has motivated me to dig up some misconceptions about elderly in the workplace and how a responsible business can make use of yet untapped potential.
Let me first explore what misconceptions companies may have regarding older keeping older staff and then introduce some measures that could be introduced to create a smooth transition from employment to retirement, both benefitting the company, as well as the employee.
Misconception #1 Companies may think that their staff is getting too old and they rapidly have to catch up by employing fresh graduates from university and laying off the loyal, experienced employees. They might not see that they could face a skilled labour shortage when transforming the employee age structure too drastically and abruptly. Yes, companies may observe a rise in the average age of employees but this is natural since the whole population is ageing in most developed countries. People tend to enjoy their retirement usually for at least fifteen years nowadays and the company could easily increase its capacity by retaining people with long work and business experience as well as recruiting new employees. Surveys show that older staff demand more flexibility and in return they are willing to compromise on payments when allowed to be part of concepts such as job sharing or longer unpaid leave. In addition, the older more skilled staff can still be valuable to the corporation for mentorship programs.
Misconception #2 Older workers are less efficient, cannot learn quickly enough and are just not cost-efficient. This claim is not only age-discriminating but also indicates how some managers are trying to deny their responsibility to offer regular corporate training to form their workforce to be a competitive advantage for the company. Ability to learn is a matter of capabilities, not of age. Furthermore, the UK government provides the example of a fast food chain in which the multigenerational workforce has increased performance by 20 percent as hard working ethics have been passed on to the younger ones.
Diversity in teams is an important concept for businesses today because, when applied under certain preconditions such as adequate leadership, the team may be more creative, innovative and goals-driven. Therefore encouraging older workers to stay longer can pay off for the organisation. As mentioned earlier, flexibility is a goal to strive for: part time, shift split, temporary contracts, homeworking and project-based assignments are just examples of how to reduce cost-burden for a company but still make use of the employer’s skill. Furthermore, effective inhouse training prepares workers of any age for challenges at work. Early succession management and the idea of filling one position with an older mentor and a fresh graduate may also benefit all parties involved.
Consequently, despite companies not feeling the pain point of a lack of skilled labour yet, they can prevent this event from happening by enhancing their diversity and not only supporting youngsters to start their career but also by creating processes for older workers to shift into retirement more conveniently.