19/07/19, Cate Nelson Shaw

Intergenerational working: the benefits of age diversity in the workplace

As The Beatles sang in 1967 “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?”. Possibly slightly melancholy, however over 50 years later the sentiment is still relevant: older people are often overlooked in the workplace despite their years of experience and of course the diversity of thought that intergenerational working can bring.

A 2013 report by Deloitte explains the diversity of thought: “Each human being has a unique blend of identities, cultures and experiences that inform how he or she thinks, interprets, negotiates and accomplishes a task. Diversity of thought…focuses on realising the full potential of people, and in turn an organisation, by acknowledging and appreciating the potential promise of each person’s unique perspective and different way of thinking. The implication of this …is to...focus on creating a learning culture where people feel accepted, are comfortable contributing ideas and actively seek to learn from each other”.

So in effect organisations that discriminate against older workers possibly do so to their detriment. Therefore it’s about organisations being flexible in their approach to the people. Charlie Thompson, Marketing and Communications Director at offshore renewable energy company ORE Catapult says, “There are a mindset and cultural change that companies need to consider as they employ a workforce who are 65, 70 years old. They have a massive amount of experience to contribute but are possibly looking for a different work-life balance; so how can companies adapt to that while still delivering highly competitive, highly productive outputs of products and services”. And the benefits to organisations of intergenerational working and age diversity? There are many.

Older people offer practical experience and expertise and of course, younger age groups can offer skills training and new ways of collaborating. Older people, having joined the workforce before the advent of the internet and the domination of email, messaging and social media, can share their communication skills and their emotional intelligence skills to coach colleagues to be able to read and understand interactions and meetings. And the opposite is also true, as we saw in action recently here at Remarkable HQ when our Career Ready intern reverse mentored a colleague and taught them new digital skills.

Older people can offer connections and networks too, those built up over a lifetime career, that can both support and encourage younger colleagues and contribute new expertise and perspectives to an organisation. Having conducted an extremely robust survey here at Remarkable HQ, we can confidently say some of our younger colleagues have a significantly smaller Little Black Book than some of their older colleagues.*

An intergenerational workforce can also enhance the customer experience, by reflecting the society in which we live. This helps organisations align and position themselves to their target markets and deliver thoughtful front line customer relationships. Supermarkets have been particularly proactive, hiring age diverse employees particularly in-store, which often makes older shoppers - particularly those that shop only for themselves - less invisible and socially isolated within their community. And in turn, these customers are more likely to strike up a conversation with a member of staff with whom they can identify, sometimes their only one of the day.

So yes, in response to The Beatles and the ageing UK population, organisations will still need you when you are 64.

*We leaned over the desk and asked one of our colleagues

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