The workforce today is more diverse in age than ever before, spanning five generations, and will soon include Gen Alpha, who are still teenagers but on their way. This multi-generational dynamic presents opportunities and challenges for leaders and employees alike. Age diversity in the workforce is not a new topic however, when great candidates emphasize their ability to work effectively with individuals of all ages, it sends a clear message that age diversity is an important topic and a significant consideration for leadership and employees at all levels of the organization.
There has been much discussion about developing age-inclusive workplaces and the many benefits of multi-generational teams. At the organizational level, age is often overlooked as part of an organization’s DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) strategy. However, there is much we can do on an individual level to successfully embrace and leverage age diversity in the workplace. It is crucial to reflect upon and remind ourselves, on an individual level, of the required mindset and skills, which often overlap with those needed for positive work culture and success in any environment.
Recognize that an individual’s position within an organization is a result of their own abilities, knowledge, and contributions. For example, there are numerous accomplished Gen Z CxOs in the workforce who have rightfully earned their leadership roles and achieved success in their positions. Similarly, we also encounter many successful Boomers and Gen Xers across organizations, demonstrating their proficiency and expertise in their respective roles. Embracing age diversity means applying this principle in both directions. Age should not be a decisive factor in assessing someone’s worth or the value they bring to the organization.
Respect colleagues and peers. When respect frames our work ethos, every aspect of our interactions from communication to conflict resolution will be positively affected and contribute to a positive work culture. Provide constructive feedback respectfully. Accept constructive feedback as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Set aside age stereotypes. Age should not be used as a basis for judgment and blame. Success and performance should not be attributed to age but to individual factors. Consider the person and not the age.
Listen and discuss. Everyone has something to learn and something to teach. Age should not prevent us from either. Life-long learning has no age boundaries, and teaching others has no age boundaries either.
Life experience is present at any age and stage. It may differ in duration or content from others but offers a unique and valuable perspective due to these differences and should be acknowledged and appreciated.
Age diversity is a complex issue that requires consideration at both the organizational and individual levels. At the organizational level, seeking guidance from experts and consultants can be beneficial in designing, promoting, and implementing age-diverse policies and practices. Simultaneously, individuals at all levels within the organization must also take a proactive approach by reflecting on their own attitudes and adopting the mindsets and skillsets to actively embrace age diversity. Creating a culture that genuinely embraces age diversity fosters inclusive and productive work environments that harness the collective strengths and experiences of employees across all generations. Embracing age diversity on an individual level is not just a skill but a vital element in cultivating successful and positive work environments.