Generational diversity, reliability, interpersonal skills, and loyalty for the post-pandemic win
Generational diversity, like all types of diversity, strengthens organizations. The benefits of generational diversity in the workplace include:
- Cognitive diversity — each generation has its own way of approaching problems and understanding solutions
- Increased innovation — teams composed of like-minded members tend to maintain their status quo, while diverse teams question assumptions
- Broader customer base — diverse communication styles appeal to a broad customer base.
As Ryan Jenkins notes in his article for Inc. Magazine, “a team that benefits from generational diversity will be able to communicate with the confidence of a Baby Boomer, the experience of Generation X, and the velocity of a Millennial.”
Around the world, people are living longer and working longer. A worker hired at age 50 may give 20 or more years of service. In fact, the Washington Post reports that more Americans age 85 and older are employed than ever before.
The terms “mature” and “experienced” should be attractive to employers. But older workers have been negatively stereotyped in America, and to the detriment of business. The truth is that people over 50 are the fastest growing group of workers, projected to be 35% of the workforce by 2022. They’re also quite possibly the demographic that’s poised to contribute the greatest value to a company. Consider these facts:
- 50+ workers have spent decades honing the soft skills that businesses need — professional, courteous communication, customer service, and problem-solution analysis.
- 50+ workers exhibit a higher degree of company loyalty than their younger counterparts. This translates into a much lower, much less costly unexpected turnover rate. Employers face a 49% unexpected turnover rate among their younger workers, but the rate for older workers is only 29%.
- Minimal cost differentials compared to younger workers — costs that may be offset by the value mature workers add to high-performing organizations.
- Workers over 55 have a higher degree of engagement than those who are under 55. And higher employee engagement equals higher revenues.
How and where can businesses recruit mature workers?
In 2015, at 58 years old, I needed a new job but was afraid I wouldn’t get one — because of my age.
My fear was based in reality: after the Great Recession, women over 50 stayed jobless more than any other demographic. They faced a double-whammy of age and gender discrimination. Will the same thing happen post-pandemic? It's too soon to say.
Luckily, I landed a job that aligned with my values and allowed me to use my education and experience. The job was with a temporary, grant-funded program at Santa Fe College that was part of AARP Foundation’s BACK TO WORK 50+ network. I conducted outreach to local employers, facilitated seminars on the job search process, coached individual job-seekers, wrote grant applications and reports, and otherwise contributed to the impact and success of our program. The BACK TO WORK 50+ program has lapsed at Santa Fe and most locations, but online resources for job-seekers and employers are still available.
Santa Fe College is still going strong in Gainesville, and one of the best programs there that trains people for re-entry to the workforce is the Displaced Homemaker Program. Local employers can still recruit qualified, mature workers through Santa Fe College; those in other regions can recruti from any of the community colleges that operate nationwide.
- Make generational diversity part of the corporate culture — a part that’s visible to job candidates.
- Ensure that job specs are written in a way that isn’t off-putting to older applicants. Just as terms like “competitive environment” can be more attractive to men than to women, terms like “vibrant” can signal a preference for younger applicants.
- Create generationally diverse hiring committees, and educate them about generational diversity. Let mature applicants know they will be a good fit for the organization.
- Post job openings in a variety of locations. “Baby Boomers are more likely to use traditional job boards to search,” according to HR Professionals Magazine.
Once experienced workers are on board, what are the best retention strategies for the over-50 demographic?
Mature workers may have different priorities than millennials or Gen X-ers. While opportunities for advancement may not be at the top of their list, job satisfaction is important, along with opportunities for creativity and engagement. Also, older workers “will probably look more closely at health care and other traditional benefits offerings than younger workers.”
Practices that can help with retention of mature talent include:
- Flexible scheduling options
- Formal recognition of contributions to the company’s success
- Ongoing learning opportunities
In other words, older workers want the same things that most employees want: to be treated as individuals, to be paid well for their work, to feel valued, and to have opportunities to learn and grow.
Mature workers already contribute their great work ethic, company loyalty, professional experience, and well-developed soft skills to forward-looking organizations.
Recruiting and retaining experienced workers can mean increased revenues for high-performing businesses.
And that’s the bottom line.