There has been much discussion about workplace diversity in recent years. Much of the conversation relates to gender or racial diversification and the value of having different perspectives within a company. There is also tremendous value in developing an intergenerational workplace, built on the distinct contributions that both older and younger workers can contribute.
While the value of experience is broadly accepted, many companies push out the older generation once a certain age threshold has been crossed. They may believe they are looking to the future, saving the cost of higher-paid workers, visibly promoting the next generations of employees, or perhaps just looking for new ideas. However, an organization that takes this approach is very likely losing a competitive advantage from the experience and dedication of its senior employees.
This is certainly an issue in the U.S., but an even bigger problem internationally. Many governments will not issue work visas to anyone over 55 years old. Yet, many people work into their 70’s and beyond, maintaining high energy and a positive attitude. You only need to look at a number of world leaders to see examples of individuals successfully working into their later years. It would seem that the experience gained over the course of 35+ years of work would be valuable to the foreign countries currently seeking expatriates to help them develop their industries.
Millenials bring a new perspective to the workplace. Their familiarity with technology and a different viewpoint can contribute to the creativity within an organization. This younger generation is well connected through social networks—platforms that companies are using to promote their value propositions. As a result, there is a greater likelihood that this generation will be in tune with the messaging from their industry.
With the right attitude and effective mentoring, I have found that millennials quickly develop the technical skills they need to progress in their careers. Providing challenges and the empowerment to solve problems helps to motiviate the younger generation and allows them opportunities to progress. There is a high value placed on making a difference and not simply doing a job.
It is evident that intergenerational workplaces can create a motivating environment that benefits from experience, energy and creativity. Lessons passed between generations can provide workers of any age with new motivations, growth opportunities and sources of job satisfaction. Of course, employees must have the right attitude—including respect for the contributions of other generations. With that in place, companies can develop a competitive advantage by fostering productive intergenerational diversity within the workplace.