Looking for a Competitive Advantage? Cultivate a Multi-Generational Workforce

April 5, 2019

Heads up!  Have you looked at your colleagues lately?  Chances are you have five distinct generations of co-workers working within your company.   In the 1950s, the workforce was more than 60% white men.  These men could expect to retire at age 65 and live their remaining years in leisure. It’s not your grandfather’s workplace anymore!   Today’s workforce in America better reflects the overall population with a mix of races, religions, genders, age and other factors. For the first time in history, there are people born before 1945 working alongside people born in 1996 and the many years in between.

Think about the perspective each of these generations brings to the workplace! It is often said that the ultimate success of a business depends on having diverse, non-heterogenous teams.  Do you know why?  Because these employees bring many talents derived from their varied backgrounds, life experiences, viewpoints, abilities, and disabilities.  The only way to build a puzzle successfully is if the pieces are different!

What images come to mind when you hear “age diversity?” The term should mean that a business will have an equitable share of younger workers as it does older workers. Having a strong mix of both will bring a good blend of skills and qualities to the workplace. The good news is that more and more CEOS see the value of diversity and inclusion (D&I) on their bottom line.  However, age is often overlooked as a diversity criteria factor.  Only 8% of CEOS include age as a dimension of their D&I strategy. – PwC 18th Annual Global CEO Survey (2015)

There are numerous studies that examine the impact of diverse teams and specifically, multigeneration, teams in the workforce.

A research study conducted through the Center for European Economic Research and published in the Labour Economics Journal concluded that “in establishments that apply mixed-age working teams the productivity contributions of old and of young employees are significantly higher than in establishments without this measure.”

Another research study published in the Journal of Applied found suggests that in complex group decision-making tasks, older workers often have the knowledge (and time) to help younger workers, thereby facilitating each group member’s individual work.

Having a multigenerational workforce is a competitive advantage for companies.  Organizations that hire the same type of people limit the company’s potential at their own risk.

So, what should companies do?

Inc.com suggests that “with generations being one of the greatest diversities that divide employees, leaders must act intentionally to unite generations in order to reap the benefits of generational diversity.

Fostering an environment of respect, inclusion, open communication, and freedom to create and implement ideas will help organizations capitalize on their generations’ diverse cognitive power. Marrying previous generations’ experience with Millennials’ fresh perspectives and innovation will help future-proof organizations in the twenty-first century.”

McKinsey & Company’s Delivering through Diversity Report found that four imperatives emerged as being critical to developing effective diversity and inclusion strategies that support a company’s growth agenda:

  • Articulate and cascade CEO commitment to galvanize the organization
  • Define inclusion and diversity priorities that are based on the drivers of the business-growth strategy.
  • Craft a targeted portfolio of inclusion and diversity initiatives to transform the organization.
  • Tailor the strategy to maximize local impact.

Older workers will comprise 25% of the workforce by 2024. The companies that will thrive will have figured out how to leverage the talents each of the five generations brings to the workplace.

Chief Operating Officer