Insight and Experience: Embracing Age Diversity In the Workplace

Diversity is a topic we have revisited several times. However, something all too often overlooked is the matter of age discrimination in the workplace, and even throughout the recruitment process. 

A well-rounded team is comprised of individuals from a range of backgrounds, with diverse personalities, experience, and interests. Yet as the door opens to many aspiring young entrepreneurs, artisans, and tech talents, it has also begun to close for many older employees, whose experience is overlooked in favour of fresh ideas and youthful innovation.

Yet, by excluding a percentage of potential candidates simply for their age, you massively reduce the talent pool available to you. This means the perfect fit for your team might not even get a chance to speak to you. Ageism is a pervasive problem, particularly within newer industries and organisations. However, mature employees can, and should, be an integral part of your talent strategy, not only for their experience, but for the dedication, loyalty and patience accumulated throughout their working lives.

Refining the recruitment process

Naturally, employers want to build cohesive teams which can grow and develop with their business. This includes embracing new technologies and adapting to the latest trends as they happen. With this in mind, it can be tempting to err towards a younger workforce.

However, employees of all ages can learn these skills with the correct training, so rather than hampering your team’s progress, you will be expanding upon their existing knowledge, and ensuring a smooth transition to the new system.

In the words of Shakespeare, “Experience is by industry achieved, and perfected by the swift course of time.” There are certain things that can only truly be learnt from experience, and mature employees can provide objective insights and perspectives that will add a new dimension to the collaborative process. By letting everyone have their say, you can find unique solutions to common concerns, and work towards building a fully unified workforce.

Over 50 percent of startups fail within just two years, and it is often a lack of hands-on knowledge that is the culprit. Many new businesses are comprised of enthusiastic and driven teams of young entrepreneurs. Yet while they have the will and creativity to succeed, they can all too easily fall foul of an unforeseen disaster. 

In contrast, having a diverse team gives you the greatest chance of identifying potential problems, and their solutions, before they even arise. The same applies to new projects, internal feedback, and even plans for the business’ future. Each team member provides a unique perspective, enabling ideas to be covered from every angle before settling on a solution.

Rocking the Boat

Unfortunately, one of the primary concerns of employers when it comes to age diversity is the potential for conflict, or a lack of confidence, when young managers are required to manage mature employees. However, this should not be seen as an obstacle to diversity, but rather an opportunity for performance management training and employee development.

Ultimately, neither manager nor team member should feel that age is any indication of merit or seniority. In fact, many mature employees may have former management experience, so they already understand the challenges being faced by their younger colleagues. However, this can often lead to employers being cautious about hiring older individuals, as they fear that they will “rock the boat”. 

This perception arises from a lack of understanding about the career expectations of mature employees. While some will of course be keen to work their way up in your organisation, others may have had enough of the pressures of management, and be keen to put their experience to good use as part of a team. 

A Step In the Right Direction

While it may seem self-evident, it is important to remember that you should treat mature employees as you would any other. In fact, failure to do so would be in breach of the 2010 Equality Act. While there are a few exceptions, including a provision for objective justification, in general, age should not be a differentiating factor in employment decisions.

That’s not to say that many of your mature employees won’t have different requirements and aspirations to your graduate employees, for example. In fact, this diversity is part of the reason you should welcome talent of all ages onto your team. Different groups will hold separate values, have differing expectations, and will approach problems from unique angles.

Meanwhile, by taking the time to understand the goals and skill-sets of each member of your team, you will develop a more comprehensive understanding of the dynamic of your workforce as a whole.

There is already a trend towards greater acceptance of mature employees in modern enterprises, as businesses embrace the unique insights and experience these individuals can bring to the table.  As such, it is worth considering the options for your business as soon as possible, before all the best talent has already been hired.

To discuss a recruitment strategy that can take your business forward, contact our expert team today.

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