How to Meet the Challenges of Age Diversity in the Workplace

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The multi=generational workplace is the ideal for many reasons. Workers along the age spectrum bring different skills and strengths to the table and can transfer their knowledge to each other. This affects the bottom line, as it increases worker productivity. But biases against younger and older employees run rampant: younger works are irresponsible and older ones can't learn new things, especially technically, according to stereotypes. Buying into these stereotypes lead employers to avoid age diversity and thus miss out on their benefits. They must remember however that truly creating a welcoming space for all generations in the workplace is much easier than responding to legal accusations of age discrimination.

Things You'll Need

  • Good Office Policy
  • Good Culture
  • Good Communications

Set Policy

  • Fully train management, especially people in human resources, on the Age Discrimination in Employment Act as well as state laws that govern the workplace. See to it that they strictly adhere to the rules, but operate from a perspective that says age diversity is a good business strategy. Ensure that hiring programs, career development programs, employee activities, and all facets of employee life are inclusive of everyone along the age spectrum. It is also helpful to create flexible work arrangements that cater to people depending on what stage of life they are in. Professional services firms, for example could have a culture that indirectly discriminate against younger workers, who may be starting families, but a startup technology company may have an inherent bias against older workers.

  • Cultivate a cordial employee culture by making it easy to respect and work with employees of all ages. The key is to offer as many opportunities for different age groups to collaborate on projects. Exposure is generally a good way to reduce stereotypes and bias. Be sure to set boundaries however. There must be zero tolerance of any forms of discrimination to people based on their ages.

  • Talk about it. Be sure your company publicizes the fact that it wants an age-diverse workforce. You can do so in any communication piece you produce, from job ads to informational brochure. Seek assistance from organizations such as AARP, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Society of Human Resource Management. Each offers resources of recruiting and retaining workers.

  • Consider your executive leadership and succession planning processes. Are the members of the C-Suite all workers in their 50s and 60s? How old are the people who are next in line for those positions? Moreover, have a look at your IT department, your employee activities committee, and your front-line supervisors? Are they all just out of college? Attaining good age diversity in name only does nothing if the people in these visible positions simply reflect the status quo. Your company must put its money where its mouth is by ensure the most highly qualified candidates of all ages have the opportunity to succeed in your company.

Tips & Warnings

  • Age discrimination laws are still evolving. As late at May 2010 Congress was considering overrulling a Supreme Court decision that put the burden of proof of age bias on employees. Just two years prior, employers who were accused of age discrimination had to prove that some other factor was involved in layoff older workers. Although it may be more difficult, they are still numerous.
  • Age diversity almost always comes across as "hire older workers." But really it should translate into "make the workplace welcoming to workers of all ages," as both older and younger workers challenge employers on discrimination in court.

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References

  • Photo Credit Group of business people working together in the office.. image by Andrey Kiselev from Fotolia.com
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