How to Value Age-Diversity in the Workplace

Posted by martin.parnell |
How to Value Age-Diversity in the Workplace

Next Saturday, our daughter, Kristina is flying in with our two grandsons, Nathan aged nine and Matthew Connor aged four. My wife, Sue, and I have been making a list of activities to do with the boys that they will both enjoy. 

On a recent Skype, Matthew Connor told us that he wants to see dinosaurs. We could take them to the wonderful Royal Tyrrell Museum, in Drumheller, but it’s a long drive and although Nathan would love the exhibits, we’re not sure if Matthew Connor would enjoy the museum as much. So, instead, we’ll take a trip to Calgary Zoo, where they can see animals they’ve never seen before and explore the Dinosaur Park. 

Another attraction we recently discovered is a place called The Granary Road Active Learning Park, at 112 Street West, in Calgary. It’s a wonderful, outdoor activity park, with many features including: Frog pond fun pad. Orchard treehouse, Arachnid web, Ant farm adventure, Bee hive honeycomb, Bat cave hang out and lots more. 

We especially like it because there is plenty for both the boys to do, despite their five year age gap. Whilst Sue and I were compiling our list, that’s something we tried to bear in mind. What activities can be enjoyed by both a four year-old and a nine year-old?  

As parents and grandparents, it’s something many of us have to consider. Sometimes, though, it’s a little tricky and we have to arrange alternative activities for them and this would apply even more, if our 14 year-old granddaughter Autunm was coming too. Fortunately, the boys are used to doing things together and Nathan is very good at being a tolerant playmate to his little brother. 

Considering this made me think about the way employees interact, despite the possibility that there may be a vast range in ages. There is a lot to be said for having people of different ages working together. Older employees can share their knowledge and experience, especially when dealing with customers. Whereas younger workers may have new ideas to share, as well as an enthusiasm which may be waning amongst older colleagues. 

Older workers can act as mentors and explain the advantages and pitfalls of doing things a certain way, younger workers can demonstrate the most recent trends in social media and advances in technology. A leader can make the most of the diversity in age of their workers by being aware of the advantages of not only the different skills and levels of experience, but how different approaches can be utilized when dealing with customers. 

Try to motivate all employees so that they share the same values and goals, when it comes to the aims of the company. Bear in mind that your younger employees may be looking for advancement, either in your company or elsewhere. Older employees may have already reached the position they want to be in and be biding their time until they retire. You need to give the younger ones every opportunity for advancement whilst, at the same time, being sensitive to the position of their more experienced workmates. 

I found some very useful information, in an article entitled Tips for Managing an Age-Diverse Workforce by John Krautzel,posted on the nexxt  website, Feb 16, 2016, in which he wrote:

Today's workforce is stocked with employees of all ages, from millennials to baby boomers. Managers have to learn to deal with and adapt to the different mindsets, work habits, values and communication styles of each generational group. Consider these tips for managing an age-diverse workforce.

Promote Work-Life Balance

It is important for employees to be able to separate their work lives from their personal lives. Employees have different values and responsibilities at each stage of their lives. Offering a flexible work schedule or compensatory time benefits employees of all age groups, whether they are baby boomers taking care of ailing parents, Gen Xers facing their own health problems or millennials tending to their young families.

Offer Employee Enrichment Opportunities

Give all your employees the chance to enhance their knowledge and skills. When employees are offered self-enrichment opportunities, they feel valued and are more satisfied with their jobs, improving workplace morale and decreasing turnover rates. Require all managers to attend training that helps them identify generational differences and adapt to them.

Focus on Communication

While communication strategies differ among all generations, the central idea of a strong communication network is important to everyone in your workforce, regardless of their ages. Avoid making communication too standardized or formal within your organization, as it can be restricting. Allow employees to work on teams to open up the dialogue and recognize each other’s' strengths.

Nurture Employee Relationships

Encourage employees to bond and socialize by planning casual social activities, such as luncheons. Promoting social relationships between your employees leads to a friendlier and more enjoyable work environment for the entire workforce.

Recognize Differences in Learning Styles

Employees of all age groups prefer to learn in different ways, so accommodate their needs. Millennials often prefer technology-based learning platforms with the opportunity for interaction, while baby boomers opt for traditional learning methods, such as handbooks and PowerPoint presentations.

Engage Your Workforce

Empower and motivate your employees by making them feel valued and appreciated. Ask older workers to mentor newer employees to share trade secrets and impart job-specific knowledge, and allow younger workers to take on challenging assignments that provide job satisfaction.

Celebrate Employee Achievements

Recognize the hard work of all your employees, whether the achievements are the result of team efforts or individual work. Send out a simple email to acknowledge success or distribute inexpensive achievement awards. This show of appreciation helps to improve the morale of employees of all ages.

There isn't one perfect way to manage your entire workforce. With each generation comes a new set of workers with personalities and work styles all their own. The key to managing an age-diverse workforce lies in recognizing the generational differences to address the values and expectations of each group.

I hope this is of some help if you have a workforce that is age-diverse. Meanwhile, I’m off to the local second-hand book store to stock up on books for the boys. 

Hopefully, I’ll find some they’ll both enjoy.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON, is being released on October 9th 2018.

He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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