A 2019 study carried out by The New Zealand Retirement Commission (Te Ara Ahunga Ora) revealed that as many as one third of the workforce at the time was aged over 55.
By 2038 it’s expected that around 1.34 million Kiwis aged over 65 will still be working. That comes as we continue to live longer and work longer to be able to retire comfortably. With as many as five generations represented in the workforce today, we look at some of the key benefits of an age diverse workplace.
There’s always something we can learn, no matter how young or old we are. Having multiple generations represented in your workplace means knowledge and skills will be shared organically, something that benefits everyone. For example, a university graduate will have a separate set of skills and knowledge than someone who’s been working for 30 years, but they’ll both have something they can teach the other. Whether it’s the sharing of lived experience or specific skills, an age diverse workplace encourages growth and challenges perspective.
More effective problem solving
Problem solving is a skill that evolves throughout our lives. Think about a problem you’ve faced at work and then think about how you would have solved it differently during each decade of your life. Now, imagine a team comprising five generations, and think about the opportunity this creates. Each person will have proposed solutions based on their experience, their outlook, and their unique set of circumstances. Together, they’ll have a wide range of proposed solutions that they can work on collectively, to ensure the best outcome.
Innovation is often driven by thinking outside of the box and identifying alternative ways of doing things. It follows then that the more diverse a workplace is, the more innovative a business is likely to be. That’s because multiple generations are challenging each other to consider using techniques they may not have considered on their own. The power of a diverse collective helps drive business forward with innovative strategy.
Better communication skills
For some generations, working in an age diverse workplace may be the first chance they have, in a professional environment, to interact with people across diverse age groups. Internally, all employees can benefit from learning how to effectively communicate with a range of age groups, whether it’s face to face or online. They’ll learn what works best for different people and be challenged to use communication methods they’re not used to. Externally, employees will be better positioned to interact with a range of clients/stakeholders and be adept at judging which method of communication is best.
Increased mental health awareness
An age diverse workforce can also contribute to workplace wellbeing and improve mental health awareness. A study from The Myers-Briggs Company found that older employees are more likely to enjoy improved workplace wellbeing. The study revealed that workplace wellbeing progressively increases with age; the highest levels recorded were in those over sixty-five. That research supports a widely held hypothesis that people develop ways to support their well-being with experience; something that presents an opportunity for older employees to mentor their younger co-workers and enhance organisational well-being.
Making age diversity a priority in your recruitment strategy is key to having a business that thrives. By employing people with varying degrees of experience, you will benefit from a team that learns from each other, that drives innovation and solves problems more effectively. The life experience of the older employees, particularly when it comes to mental health awareness and coping strategies, will help foster a healthy workplace where people feel supported.
The five generations in the workforce today:
The Silent Generation – born between 1925 and 1945
Baby Boomers – born between 1946 and 1964
Generation X – born between 1965 and 1980
Generation Y (Millennials) – born between 1981 and 1995
Generation Z (iGen) – born 1996 and later