Over the past few months, we’ve been talking about how people’s life expectancy is rising…...And how that can bring both challenges and opportunities for your company.
Before we move on, I thought it would be useful to review everything we’ve said so far. That way, you have easy access to all the pieces – and can see how everything ties together!
As people live longer, there are more people over the age of 60 or 65 in the workplace. Most companies are barely thinking about the challenges this brings. It is time to start actively managing our ageing workforce.
To support your older workers, I suggested that policies against age discrimination are not enough. You must ensure that you create a company culture where age diversity is truly celebrated and respected (and I had several suggestions about how you can get started).
Recognise, and take advantage of all your older workers have to offer – including opportunities to mentor younger workers and share their experience and knowledge. (This mentorship can work in both directions!)
And make sure that your older workers are not held back because of persistent but unfair ageist stereotypes.
Of course, in an age-diverse workplace, integrating much older workers (and appreciating all they have to offer) is not the only challenge.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have millennials – or as I prefer to call them, the digital natives – who communicate in a very different way to previous generations, often leading to misunderstandings in the workplace.
Older workers can think that they are rude, because they fiddle on their phones during team meetings…
Managers might think they are lazy, because they often prioritise flexible working….
And many ‘non-digital natives’ are mystified by the way millennials blur the lines between their personal and work lives.
In a plea for understanding, I argued that we cannot change the digital natives. Instead, we have to learn to accept that they communicate differently, and take advantage of the technological knowledge they bring to our companies.
Similarly, we can all learn from their desire for a better work-life balance. We must recognise that they might , and adjust the way we measure the contribution of all our workers.
Finally, while we can strive to accommodate digital natives’ work patterns, I suggested setting some ground rules to minimise disruption to the rest of your workforce.
And what about the generations in the middle – those in their late 40s and early 50s?
Their work patterns are changing too, as they recognise that they have another 25 or even 30 years left of work, and they re-evaluate their career goals and priorities.
To help them navigate this time of change – and to retain and support staff - I suggested that companies start offering employees a “midlife MOT”.
You need to help your staff cultivate “intangible assets”, which will help them thrive over a work life spanning 50 or 60 years.
Examine your recruitment processes, to make sure that you are not inadvertently dismissing candidates who are returning to work after a career break or a period of self-employment, or who have pursued a more fluid career path than might have been common 10 or 20 years ago.
If we are going to make our workplaces truly age-diverse, we need to know these numbers.
And we can use them to make sure we are not participating in a disturbing trend uncovered by research, of companies finding ways to break discrimination laws, and make workers in their 50s and up redundant because they are perceived as too expensive.
That’s been the conversation so far!
Over the next couple of weeks, I have an exciting announcement to make, which affects every company that is serious about building an age-diverse workplace.
Watch out for those blogs – you won’t want to miss them!