Generation gap, what generation gap?
Diversity in the workplace is increasingly recognised as an important issue, yet one area still remains a topic of much discussion. Despite the extension of the official retirement age, there is still reluctance in hiring older workers.
For those faced with continuing financial obligations and possible pension cutbacks, retiring may not be an option. For others, a ‘rocking chair’ retirement holds little appeal, with many people feeling they still have a lot to contribute in their chosen fields.
There are signs the tide is at last turning, with recent US and European studies among recruitment managers indicating a preference for more mature employees. However, employers still need to play their part in paying more than just lip service to the idea of an age-diverse workforce.
Older workers potentially have a lot going for them. A strong work ethic and self-discipline makes them dependable and loyal, while their industry-related experience and greater personal or communication skills gathered over many years in the workplace, can provide a useful example to younger colleagues.
Advertising positions, interviewing candidates and training staff can be a time-consuming and costly business. Older employees may be seen as a short term solution, but in fact, someone in their fifties or sixties who could stay for another ten years or more could provide a better return than younger candidates who may only stay for a year or two.
The ability to learn and adopt new technology is also often cited as an argument for employing younger people. The reality is that mature employees are just as able and willing to master new skills.
All that said, managing a workforce which potentially could span several different generations – each with their own values, work styles and aspirations – can be challenging.
The answer is a flexible management approach which allows for individual support as required and leading from the top to create a culture of tolerance and inclusion. Flexible working schedules and providing opportunities to exchange skills in the workplace or to socialise outside the office is also important in strengthening the bonds between different age groups.
Combining youthful exuberance and creativity with knowledge and experience makes for a better work dynamic overall. Research shows in fact that productivity is just as likely to increase by combining different ages and skills, with the added benefit that a broad mix leads to a better understanding of increasingly diverse marketplaces.
So come on managers – time to step up and show a vote of confidence for older workers. After all one day you could be among them!