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Age diversity in the workplace is something to be recognised and celebrated, but to do this it is important to understand the challenges that age diversity can present.

Having this understanding will create opportunities for workplaces to harness the benefits of different generations working together and create a foundation for an improved and inclusive workplace culture.

Read on to learn more about age diversity in the workplace from our expert consultant, Courtney Wright.

Why do we need to be aware of age diversity in the workplace?

Over the last century, global life expectancy has almost doubled and is now above 70 years old. This significant change in the demographic of the population, along with the abolishment of the default retirement age in the UK in 2011, has meant there is greater age diversity in the workplace.

We now have five generations of people, working alongside each other. To maximise the benefits of age diversity in the workplace it is important to understand who these generations are and what differences they bring to the workplace.

The five different generations in the workplace

  1. Gen Z (born 1997 – 2012) – also known as Zoomers, a play on words from the baby boomer generation
  2. Millennials (1981 – 1996) – also known as Gen Y
  3. Gen X (1965 – 1980)
  4. Baby Boomers (1946 – 1964) – the generation born during the post World War II baby boom
  5. Silent Generation (1928 – 1945) – this generation gets its name from being raised during a period of economic depression

Our Members’ resource, Multigenerational workforce factsheet, explores this age diversity in the workplace in more detail, highlighting factors including the priorities and communication preferences of these five different generations.

What challenges does age diversity in the workplace present?

As society has gone through many political, legal, economic, social, and technological changes over this past century, these five generations have experienced contrasting external factors when they entered the workforce.

It is not a surprise to imagine that this age diversity in the workplace, may bring some intergenerational conflict. The age of colleagues will have an impact on their different views, motivators, work expectations, and communication styles; all these factors will influence how the different generations work alongside each other.

“There is a clear business case for managing intergenerational employees effectively… There are many learning opportunities between the generations that can positively impact organisational culture.”

Two office workers of two different generations working on a project together. They are sitting at a computer desk, concentrating.

Age diversity brings a difference in point of view

A difference in views may be particularly noticeable surrounding attitudes to work. For example, understanding of work-life balance, location of work, and management styles.

Recently, there’s been an increase in prioritising inclusion and diversity and the employee experience for workplaces.  This is not something that older generations may have seen as a workplace priority before.

When it comes to recruiting and being an attractive employer to new talent, younger generations see good inclusion and diversity practices as essential, rather than something that’s ‘nice to have’.

Younger generations are more likely to have had access to spaces designed with these conversations in mind, whilst older generations may not have had the opportunity, or the terminology, to share their opinions and learn from each other in the workplace.

Creating a safe space, that values open and honest conversations, and recognises that colleagues from different generations may have different starting points, is key to managing age diversity in the workplace. The important thing is to understand these differences and bring the generations on an inclusion journey together.

Different generations have a variety of work expectations

Age diversity in the workplace brings a significant variety of experiences in the employee lifecycle. This can impact the expectations of different generations when they join a new workplace.

There has been more research, knowledge sharing and increased awareness of best practice in the field of organisational development, and indeed the business case for inclusion and diversity. This means many employees are experiencing huge organisational change.

From the style of interview questions at recruitment, to what’s available in employee benefits packages, to the way performance is evaluated, with five generations of age diversity in the workplace there will be a wide range of contrasting employee experiences.

A lack of understanding between different generations

This combination of different views and expectations can result in a lack of understanding between colleagues and a disconnect between the diverse generations in the workplace.

Some people may not understand why their colleagues are pushing for change within an organisation. Others may not understand why their colleagues are reluctant to change ways of working that have been in place for years. Clarity around organisational decision making is important to combat this.

Do not stereotype employees from different generations

It can be helpful to broadly define the different types of age diversity in the workplace, but it’s important we don’t fall into the trap of stereotyping the generations.

Often age is a characteristic that gets overlooked when it comes to inclusion and diversity, but we see harmful stereotypes come into play across all generations.

We see these stereotypes exacerbated in the media, with younger generations portrayed as ‘sensitive snowflakes’, and older generations as ‘stuck in their ways’.

This plays into our unconscious biases and reinforces those generational divides. Microaggressions are common in society and in our workplaces, and age is no exception.

Do any of these age-related stereotypes seem familiar to you?

  • ‘Gen Z are always glued to their phones’
  • Using the term ‘boomer’ as an insult
  • Job adverts describing their culture as ‘young and vibrant’
  • Younger co-workers being spoken over
  • Jokes about older people not being able to use technology
  • ‘Millennials are entitled’

Communication and language in an age diverse workforce

Communication is key to a successful organisation, and yet this is where we see some of the biggest challenges when it comes to effectively managing age diversity in the workplace.

Digital communication is now at the forefront of most organisations, and rapid investment and expansion in technology have meant there are more ways to communicate than ever before.

It’s important to recognise that for some employees, especially those who are long-serving within their organisation, communication styles will have changed multiple times during their working life.

It’s also important to recognise that not everyone from younger generations knows how to use new platforms, or apps that are introduced, and assumptions that they do may lead to people feeling uncomfortable asking for help or support.

It’s not just the method of communication that can be a challenge for age diversity in the workplace, but the tone of voice and level of formality may also differ between generations. It’s also important to consider evolving language, especially when we consider changes in terminology used in the inclusion and diversity space.

There may also be generational differences between slang used by younger generations, and business acronyms or jargon used by older generations, so the words we use regularly when communicating can contribute to a generational divide.

The benefits of a multigenerational workplace

There is a clear business case for managing intergenerational employees effectively and overcoming the challenges that age diversity in the workplace can present. There are many learning opportunities between the generations that can positively impact organisational culture.

Age diversity in the workplace leads to diversity of perspective, better decision making and increased opportunities to develop our workforce.

Age diversity brings wider perspective

We know that having a diverse workplace also allows us to be more representative of our clients, customers and colleagues. Representative of age diversity is a part of this and contributes to diversity of thought, helping workplaces to see different perspectives and reflect on different life experiences.

Improved problem solving skills

Having a multigenerational workforce means we benefit from having a mixture of fresh innovation and ideas, balanced with the wisdom and learning from those employees with years of experience.

We solve problems better when we are challenged, and healthy conflict leads to better decision making. The different challenges that generations have faced throughout their lives, will help us better identify barriers in situations, and also be better equipped to consider the impact of potential solutions too.

Learning from colleagues in different generations

A key benefit of a multigenerational workforce is the potential for knowledge sharing. Longer serving employees can help younger generations understand the context of your organisation and ensure that industry knowledge is passed down.

Younger generations can bring new ideas, skills and methods to the workplace, and educate their co-workers on these.

Being willing to understand, listen and learn from colleagues across the generations helps to increase empathy, and will enable employers to unlock the potential of age diversity in the workplace. There’s always more we can learn from each other!

“Think about age inclusion at the recruitment stage; it is an essential part of job design. Dates of education or employment on CVs can be a giveaway as to a person’s age and naturally lead to bias in hiring manager’s decisions.”

Learn more about Inclusive Recruitment
An older office profession having a job interview

Top Tips for managing an age diverse workforce

Effectively managing age diversity in the workplace is about reflecting on the needs and expectations of all generations, throughout the employee lifecycle. Read these top tips below to improve your confidence and maximise on the potential an age diverse workforce.

1. Make sure your benefits are suitable for all generations

Think about what will appeal to different generations – are they looking for health and wellbeing perks, career development opportunities, volunteering opportunities, social events or financial benefits?

Tailoring your package to consider employees of all ages has the initial benefit of attracting a more diverse workforce, as well as the long-term potential to reduce your employee turnover.

A best practice approach is a pick and mix style of benefits, where employees can choose, from a selection provided; what works best for them and their lifestyle.

2. Be inclusive and unbiased

Think about age inclusion at the recruitment stage; it is an essential part of job design. Dates of education or employment on CVs can be a giveaway as to a person’s age and naturally lead to bias in hiring manager’s decisions.

Can you adapt your hiring process to be more neutral, so that those on recruitment panels don’t have access to some of this demographic information? Our experts can provide a range of support to develop your inclusive recruitment practices.

3. Listen to voices from different generations

Listen and hear the voices that represent age diversity in your workplace. As you would with other characteristics, find out what your employees are thinking.

You could do this by including age, along with other diversity data, in your employee surveys. This would allow you to analyse results through the lens of looking at how different generations are impacted.

4. Encourage communication styles that are appropriate for different ages

In society, and in our workplaces, there’s an increasing understanding of acknowledging neurodiversity and the different ways that individual brains work.

This means there’s isn’t a ‘right way’ of communicating that suits everyone. It’s best not to make assumptions around communication styles, and instead, treat people as individuals.

When you’re thinking about organisation-wide communications, reflect on how you’re getting that message out. Is the content engaging and accessible for the age diversity in your workplace?

5. Be understanding of individual employee needs

Be accommodating to the needs of individuals, and take a flexible approach both to working patterns and working styles if you want to benefit from age diversity in the workplace.

As employees get older, they may have additional caring responsibilities or changes in health. It’s important to check in regularly with your employees about any additional support they might need, and support flexible working where possible.

6. Create opportunities for learning between the generations

Think about setting up cross-generational mentoring schemes to maximise on the learning opportunities within your age diverse workforce.

Older generations will have a wealth of skills and knowledge to draw upon, and younger generations are likely to be more confident in the knowledge of current trends, or recent technological advancements.

Conduct a training needs analysis, and consider where cross-generational collaboration may enhance your training programme.

Ensure your inclusion and diversity initiatives, such as training sessions on unconscious bias or microaggressions, are considerate of age diversity in the workplace.

Encouraging employees to share their own personal experiences, as part of these sessions, or as a wider campaign, can help build empathy and understanding between generations. This case study highlights how sharing stories and celebrating difference between employees can empower them and progress inclusion for the whole organisation.

Maximise the potential of age diversity in your workplace with Inclusive Employers

Ultimately, managing age diversity in the workplace is all about valuing and understanding difference.

All workplaces have different challenges and cultures, so your route to making the most of your age diverse workforce will be unique to your organisation. That is where Inclusive Employer’s can help; our approach is about tailoring support to address your specific needs. We can support with different training or consultancy approaches, or guide you to our most relevant Members’ resources.

If you’re an Inclusive Employers member, please have a chat to your account manager about the options and available.

For non-members, it’s easy to reach out for support using the form below, we look forward to hearing from you.


Recruit with confidence

Inclusive recruitment is key to diversifying your workforce.

Our experts provide tailored support, whether you’re starting from scratch or reviewing your current practices.

Recruitment audit, training, policy review, and job design; we can support you with all stages of the recruitment process.

Talk to us about recruiting inclusively

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