If you’re responsible for hiring in your small business, or a hiring manager in larger companies, diversity efforts tend to focus on gender and ethnicity. Generational diversity is an often-overlooked dynamic that can boost productivity, decrease turnover, and increase innovation.

For the first time in history, the global workforce consists of 5 generations of employees:

Silent Generation (ages 74 to 94)
• Baby Boomers (ages 55 to 73)
• Generation X (ages 39 to 54)
• Generation Y (ages 24 to 38)
• Generation Z (ages 23 and younger)

Many people are working longer than ever before. This longer work life is due to an increase in longevity, job satisfaction, a need for financial stability as retirement years extend, and a rise in parents supporting adult children into their 20’s and 30’s.

It’s cool really, that outside of family run businesses, multi-generational experience and thinking is being shared. And the benefits of an age-diverse workforce are immense.

Productivity surges: In companies with age-diverse teams, productivity of both older and younger workers is higher. Many companies are moving to a results environment- meaning they are evaluated on productivity instead of hours worked. Employees will work late to finish a project and feel free to leave early when tasks are completed. This is likely second nature to those fresh out of post-secondary. And can be beneficial to a team that has historically been in an environment of clock-watchers.

Keeps people around: Younger team members don’t have a ‘job for life’ mentality and typically stay in a J.O.B. for only 2 years. However, according to a recent study, work fulfillment in an environment that is accepting and inclusive outranks salary among millennials. And they’ll stick around if they believe the company is invested in their success, offers them regular growth opportunities, and lets them know ‘how’ they are helping to improve the business. After-all regardless of age. every company strives for happy employees and low attrition.

Increases Innovative insights: Age-diversity provides a variety of experiences, expectations, styles, and perspectives which, when managed well, drives innovation resulting in an organization that appeals to a broader customer demographic. We’re aware that technology and social media are part of a younger demo’s DNA. Think about it, who do you call on when your phone’s not working, or you have an IT question?

Businesses now reach prospects, customers, employees, and vendors through technology, and these everyday touchpoints are non -skills to a younger generation and can be a serious workplace asset. While the younger workforce is tuned in to new trends and technologies, an older generation can support understanding of their customer demographic, ensuring you are speaking the language of all customers.

Varied knowledge is power: Older employees bring timeless knowledge from years of experience. Younger employees are often recent grads who bring up-to-date knowledge and have likely been studying the newest practices in the field. This combination gives your company a greater ability to create ground-breaking solutions particularly if the business is in a less mature industry or has experienced significant change, R&D, or global expansion.

Reaches a wider demo: We know that with each generation a different skill set is brought to the table. As we know, young employees have a strong grasp of technology, while mature professionals often have interpersonal skills that are an asset. This diversity of skills helps a company engage a multi-generational demographic and understand the various mindsets, motivations, purchasing behaviors, and communication styles. Having someone who’s in the younger demographic can help the company design products, craft messaging, and deliver targeted customer experiences to a wider audience.

Not afraid to take risks: We’ve all been in silent meetings, often because long-time employees won’t ask questions as they tend to understand the standard industry practices and follow business models that have historically been set. A younger, new to business employee’s lack of experience means they can easily adopt a new way of doing business, offer a fresh perspective on an old process, and may be more likely to take risks. After all, they don’t’ have a reputation to lose.

Asking questions demonstrates an eagerness to learn, an indication that they’ve been niggling on an issue, and are committed to the company. These simple and seemingly dumb questions elicit responses that help everyone get clarity on big ideas and specific directives alike. Plus, it ignites discussion with those once silent- yet highly experienced team members, as new out of the box ideas emerge.

Brings the gift of multitasking: When looking at a younger employee, it’s evident that they can be checking the stock prices, listen to music, type an email, deliver on a task, walk, chew gum, whistle (you get it) at the same time. Research has been done on the brain development of millennials and Gen Y’s as they live with a multitude of technology and can respond to dozens of stimuli. This can be frustrating to watch for some other employees as they may seem un-focused or dismissive, however their highly scheduled childhoods have turned them into young adults who equate being busy with productivity and happiness. 

As many older employees are highly productive during work hours, a younger demo does not always differentiate work from home and if offered flexibility their ‘always on’ mentality is equally productive at 10 p.m. from their sofa.

Failure is just part of the game: If you spent your childhood playing video games you know that failure means you can start over and have a chance to do better next time. This gamer generation will dive into a new project even with uncertainties because they tend to be less concerned with perfectionism. On the flip side, this ‘get if done fast’ mentality does need to be guided so it’s coupled with a job well done.

Is bias busting: It’s not new news that age-bias exists for both young and old employees and those seeking employment. It’s tough for some not to stereotype a younger generation as lazy, entitled, and the kids who all received participation awards in lieu of competition. Same can be true for older employees, as stuck in their ways, tech adverse, and opposed to change. Creating an age-diverse workforce is a terrific way to bust these beliefs and establishes opportunities for generational mentoring that helps employees become aware of a company’s history, trajectory, and vision.

Focusing on the benefits of each generation of worker helps to develop a thriving, diverse and inclusive brand. Understanding the career priorities of different generations is important to creating a great internal company culture and opens your company to a wider client base.

Plus, as the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers retire, companies will not survive if those age groups make up much of their talent pool. Sure, the Gen X, Y and Zer’s may not have the years of experience or business contacts, but they bring tech savvy, risk taking, innovative thinking that every business needs. Couple that with enthusiasm, and it’s a no-brainer!

(Some content derived from the Summit Search Group findings)
~Cherene Kambeitz, Marketing & Communications Director – Levvel inc. Reach out to Connect@levvel.ca

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