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Managing Age Diversity in the Workplace

Dive In
  • Writer's pictureThe CareerBeacon Team

Updated: Mar 25

Monitoring the age gap in your workplace

Are you an employer struggling to manage a multi-generational workforce? It’s time to bridge the age gap and harness the unique skills and perspectives each generation brings to the table. Your company can thrive in today’s ever-changing market by creating a collaborative and inclusive work environment.

The workplace of the future

As the workforce continues to diversify, businesses must consider the age gap among their employees. A variety of perspectives and experiences can spark fresh ideas and innovation in your team, leading to better collaboration and teamwork. However, without proper management, the age gap can also lead to communication issues and conflicts — not to mention the problems with ageism.

If you want to create a work environment where everyone feels valued and respected, you must embrace diversity and inclusivity, regardless of age. Why limit yourself to one generation’s worth of knowledge and experience when you can tap into the collective wisdom of all your employees?

Businesses can break down age barriers and unleash their full potential by encouraging intergenerational mentorship and collaboration. This fosters a culture of continuous learning and growth and boosts overall productivity and innovation. Managing the age gap in the workforce is crucial for driving success in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape.

Employment stats in Canada

Understanding why managing age diversity in the workplace is so imperative. it may be helpful to check out the most employed age groups in Canada. This data is based on those employed in February 2023 (Stats Canada report). Check out the graph below.

Employed population by age in Canada – February 2023

employed population by age stats can feb 2023

As you can see, almost 13 million people aged 25-54 are under some kind of employment agreement. This diverse dispersion of workers requires employers to know how to deal with different age groups.

How does age diversity affect the workforce?

Positive effects 

A company that embraces managing age diversity in the workplace is like a chef who uses all the spices and flavours – it just tastes better! Bringing together individuals of different ages, backgrounds, and experiences creates a melting pot of creativity, ideas, and innovation that enriches your company’s culture.

Whether you’re a startup or a multinational corporation, valuing and celebrating differences can profoundly impact the work environment. It creates a sense of belonging and inclusivity, where everyone feels valued and heard.

Lower turnover

When it comes to employee turnover, the age-old adage rings true – with age comes wisdom–and loyalty! Research shows that older employees are likelier to stick around, especially if they feel valued and respected by their employers. 

According to the EEOC, employees over 50 are more engaged with their work, which usually correlates to a motivated workforce that influences how long employers stay with a company overall. 

This influence can trickle down to younger employees, who may see their older counterparts’ satisfaction within the organization. This is particularly true if the relationships between the different generations within an office are nurtured and positively fostered. The younger generations may be more apt to look up to those with more tenure in the company.

Increased productivity

Productivity is not just about working harder, but working smarter – and age diversity can play a crucial role in making this your reality. By bringing together employees of different ages and experiences, businesses can tap into a wealth of knowledge and skills that can boost their bottom line.

Older employees, in particular, are known for their engagement and dedication to their work. They have been around the block a few times and know what it takes to get the job done right. Businesses can provide them with opportunities to mentor younger employees and leverage their expertise to reduce the time and money spent on constant training.

Age diversity can also have a positive impact on branding and competitiveness. When employees are more productive, it shows in the quality of their work and customer satisfaction. This, in turn, can lead to better press and branding for the employer and more competitive pricing for products and services.

Younger employees also bring energy and enthusiasm to the workplace. Their fresh perspectives and willingness to learn can be a catalyst for innovation and creativity. Combined with their senior colleagues’ experience and wisdom, it creates a powerful alliance that drives productivity levels through the roof.

Negative effects

While diversity can be fantastic for workplace culture, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. If not handled properly, it can lead to serious adverse effects that can impact the entire organization.

For example, if certain groups feel marginalized or excluded, it can create tension and resentment that can spill over into the work. This can result in decreased morale, increased turnover, and a toxic work environment that no one wants to be a part of.

Another potential pitfall is unconscious bias, leading to discrimination against certain groups without anyone even realizing it. This can manifest in many ways, such as hiring practices, performance evaluations, and employee interactions.

Generational resentment

Age clashes can indeed cause tension in the workplace, often due to age discrimination from both younger and older employees.

The eager younger generation might feel that older employees are blocking their path to success. They’re ambitious and ready to advance, but perceive the older generation as standing in their way. On the flip side, experienced older employees may view younger colleagues as unseasoned and entitled, creating fear for their job security. This tension, combined with societal stigmas around aging, can exacerbate the divide, causing older employees to feel pushed out prematurely. This can breed distrust and resentment towards the younger workforce. It doesn’t have to be this way! Businesses managing age diversity in the workplace can bridge this gap. By promoting a culture of mutual respect, continual learning, and collaboration, they can create a more harmonious and productive work environment.

Difference in opinions

Not everyone will see eye-to-eye, and that’s just the way it is – but let’s face it, differing opinions can often bring about innovative results. It’s a double-edged sword, though, because at times it can lead to an impasse. When there’s a generational gap in the workplace, those differences can become even more pronounced, making managing a team a bit more tricky.

Picture this: you, the employer, feel stuck between the older and younger generations. Veteran staff members may think they’re entitled to certain things because of their experience. The younger crowd believes they’re up-to-date with what’s trending.

The key to bridging this divide is to create a safe space for everyone to share their ideas and opinions without fear of judgment. Let’s be clear though, this type of environment only comes to be when you have policies and procedures that protect employees from discrimination.

If you want to foster a positive company culture, you must make room for everyone, regardless of age or experience level. Give each generation the respect they deserve and allow them to feel heard. No one wants to feel like their ideas are being brushed aside or ignored.

To manage age diversity in the workplace effectively, find common ground between these different perspectives, try holding roundtable meetings where everyone can share their thoughts and ideas. This could allow you to find that elusive middle ground, where innovative solutions are born, and a sense of camaraderie is strengthened.

Supporting age diversity in the workforce

How does age contribute to diversity? Think about it: with age comes experience, and that experience can be an asset to guide others who may be treading in unfamiliar waters. At the same time, a lack of experience can also be a powerful force for diversity, opening up new avenues for learning and sparking creativity in employees who may have become too comfortable with the status quo.

When you bring together different generations, you’re bound to get differing opinions. We already discussed the challenges that can come with that, but let’s recognize the innovation potential. When you find that delicate balance of respecting everyone’s ideas, regardless of age, you create an opportunity to blend experience with experimentation. And that, my friend, is where the magic happens.

Employee interaction

The best workplaces are those where colleagues don’t just work together but genuinely enjoy each other’s company. How can employers create an environment that fosters genuine connections while managing age diversity in the workplace? It’s simple – create opportunities for employees to interact with one another!

These opportunities can take many forms, from team projects to outings, or even dinners. By bringing employees together outside of work, they can forge meaningful connections and establish respect for one another that can translate back to the office.

When coworkers have the chance to collaborate and interact in a safe space, they can build bonds that last a lifetime. This is especially important when it comes to managing age diversity in the workplace. By affording older generations the chance to impart their knowledge and wisdom to younger colleagues, companies can ensure their sustainability and success for years to come.

Proper HR Guidelines

Policies and procedures are another easy way to ensure that neither age group feels unvalued or disrespected by the employer or employees they work for/with. You can put these guidelines in place to protect both generations from discrimination. By setting boundaries and creating legitimate consequences for disrespect or conflict, everyone can be at ease in the workplace. 

Incentives for Retention

Retaining valuable employees as they reach the end of their careers can be a challenge. After years of hard work and dedication, it’s natural for them to look forward to new opportunities and priorities in life. What if we told you retaining these experienced employees could be one of the best investments your organization makes?

While their priorities may be different, the knowledge and expertise they bring to the table are invaluable. Offering incentives to keep them from retiring could benefit the organization as a whole. However, it does require a bit of flexibility on the employer’s part.

One solution is to allow employees to define their work schedules and choose where they work. This offers them the freedom to determine their workload and not feel as restricted. It’s about respecting their time and commitment to the company, while also acknowledging their desire for a more balanced lifestyle.

By retaining these experienced employees, they can share their experiential wisdom with the younger generation, fostering a culture of mentorship and collaboration. This benefits everyone, from the organization as a whole to individual employees looking to grow in their careers.

Diverse Ages, Powerful Results 

The effects of age diversity on a company’s culture can be profound. When managed positively, it can reduce turnover rates and increase productivity. However, if left unaddressed, it can foster resentment and disrespect between generations, leading to a toxic work environment.

How can companies ensure that age diversity is seen as an asset rather than a liability? The key is to encourage employees to build relationships with one another and embrace their differences. 

When hiring or retaining talent, it’s crucial to focus on skills and competencies rather than age. A diverse age range in the workforce is often a mark of a successful company, one that values and respects its employees’ varied experiences and perspectives.

By promoting diversity and inclusion, companies can create a welcoming and adaptive workplace culture that bridges the age gap like no other. This sends a powerful message to current and prospective employees that the company is committed to building a thriving and inclusive work environment.

To learn more about ageism and the workforce, check out our blog post on older employees and why employers should be more conscious of them here

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