Managing age-diversity in the workplace

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People live longer than previous generations and many want or need to work later in life. As a result, managers may be dealing with a mix of young workers, mature workers and those in between.

Try and see the person, not their age.  Think about a person’s potential and what they have to offer. Regardless of age people are keen to learn and develop new skills and want to contribute to the workplace. Everyone wants to be treated fairly and have the opportunity to learn new skills in a supportive environment.

Workers of all ages feel more motivated and engaged if you ask for and listen to their ideas and opinions. The main predictors of job performance are knowledge and expertise. So it is up to you to upskill your employees – whether they are young and new to the world of employment or more mature and new to the company or role. The buddy system can work to your advantage. Pairing up people of different ages and experiences, will result in both sides learning and benefitting from each other.

It is illegal to make employment decisions based on age, gender, ethnicity and other personal characteristics. Even if you don’t mean to treat people unfairly, sometimes hidden assumptions or stereotypes can affect your decisions. If an employee thinks they are missing out because of their age, they are entitled to make a complaint. You also risk missing out on opportunities for your business.

The best way to make fair decisions is to be clear about your processes and practices. Start by picking a common offering, eg flexible work requests, learning opportunities, rewards for good performance:

  • Think about what you offer — make brief notes, including which workers typically get it. Check for unconscious bias.
  • Reflect on how you decide — what needs to change to make it fairer or clearer? Unfair or unclear decision-making leads to problems with workplace culture.
  • Make those changes.
  • Talk openly about what’s available and you decision process— a team talk is a good option, but also give people a chance to speak just with you or a trusted colleague. Does everyone see the decision process as clear and fair?

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