Benefits of age diversity in the workplace

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Today's workplace pool has a lot more age diversity than it had in generations past. People are retiring later and many now working years, sometimes decades, past the former 55 to 65 age range for retirement. This means careers are stretching a lot longer than they used to and it has changed workforce demographics.

As the first decade of the new millennium came to a close, for the first time in the United States there were four generations coming together as colleagues - veterans, baby boomers, generation X and millennials (and now generation Z is also beginning to enter the workforce too). In 2015 millenials became the largest working population.

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Each generation brings its own unique attributes to an organization.

Differing ideas and approaches

With diversity typically comes innovation, fresh ideas and, yes, sometimes there is conflict too. However, if everyone agreed on everything, there would never be any new ideas or alternative perspectives considered when going through the decision-making process. While there are the inevitable conflicts that will arise in the workplace, this doesn't mean those differences are bad. In many ways, it is these differing approaches that can strengthen an organization and help it become better placed in a competitive business environment. 

Age diversity in the workplace also offers a unique opportunity for businesses because they can take the insight offered by the different generations and capitalize on the unique attributes each age group brings to the table.

Organizations experience heightened innovation

People of diverse ages are inevitably going to see things differently because each generation has its own perspectives on life, work and society in general. These perceptions affect ideas, judgment and even how people communicate.

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Businesses need to grow and evolve to stay competitive. Companies that stagnate for fresh ideas will eventually find competitors surpassing them. Diversity in age allows a fabulous opportunity to brainstorm and capture a variety of ideas which lead to higher levels of innovation. Imagine how dull a company's products or services would be with the same ideas churning out year after year? 

Granted, some needs don't change much, but there are marketing, advertising and even things, such as product packaging, to consider that often must evolve to continue to capture consumer attention. Trends in these aspects of business continuously change.

Share different experiences

Each generation has experienced different societal changes, and everything that happens in society and the global environment has a distinct effect on how different ages see things; all are of value and everyone can bring something to the proverbial table. These different experiences can offer a strong balance in the workplace.

Share diverse strengths

For veterans, baby boomers and some generation X members, computers were not even a part of their upbringing, whereas millennials were born with technology at their fingertips. This is a significant point to consider in today's workplaces. Technology has become an inherent piece of doing business and those who cannot adapt will have a lot of trouble succeeding. 

Millennials can offer a lot in teaching their colleagues the ins and outs of technology because it comes naturally to them. Technological know-how is their strength and this is a strong advantage they bring to their jobs. Older generations sometimes (but not always!) have a harder time adapting to technology but, as noted above, they do bring great levels of experience to the workplace. 

Typically, younger generations are in tune with the processes, but older ones are attuned to the big picture and often have a better fundamental understanding of how an industry works. Plus, they have the experience and tacit knowledge. They've been around the block, have seen things happen and, as a result, can offer keen insight due to their experiences and observances.
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Both technology and experience are valuable to the workplace and companies who hire team members of various ages will be able to draw from all of their strengths and effectively tap into the knowledge of each age generation.

Customer service

You've got to figure, in many industries, their customers are going to be diverse, and generally people like to see themselves reflected in the companies they do business with. When patrons see diversity in age, they know they can do business with someone who understands their requirements and knows what it is they're seeking to fulfill this need.

Different generations may sometimes have a harder time relating to one another and an employee from one generation may not effectively be able to capture what a customer from another generation is seeking. Ideally, any customer representative will successfully be able to fulfill a customer's desires, but this may not always be the case. If this occurs, ultimately, businesses that are comprised of limited diversity in generations are not going to effectively be able to relate to larger market segments, which can impact profitability. Generational diversity contributes to businesses having a competitive advantage.

Smart leaders are ones who can effectively balance managing diversity of age and capture the essence of what everyone has to offer. Everyone has experiences and knowledge to contribute. In this respect, it is entirely possible to close the generational gap, encourage teamwork and still benefit from what talents people of different ages have to offer.

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