The good news for business is that the balance sheet equation of “assets minus liabilities equals equity” can be influenced by the assets inherent in an age-inclusive workforce.
A multigenerational workforce yields a stronger pipeline of talent, strengthens business continuity, and helps companies close the labor shortage gap. Studies overwhelmingly show that age diversity has a positive effect on creativity, innovation, strategic thinking, and the ability to collaborate on complex decision-making. Between 2007-2009, while the S&P 500 declined by 35.5%, companies that were more age-diverse posted a 14.4% gain. And after the Great Recession, recovery by age-inclusive companies outperformed the S&P by nearly four times.
In more recent history, age discrimination against workers over age 50 cost our economy $850 billion in 2018. In other words, discrimination stifles economic growth, which hurts all of us. The economic contribution of the older population could increase by $3.9 trillion annually in a no-age bias economy.
A multigenerational workforce isn’t just good for business and the economy, it’s good for humans’ well-being. Studies show that working past age 65 is linked to better health and longevity, and workers in age-inclusive companies report more satisfaction across the board.
Create a new set of assumptions
As Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic writes in the Harvard Business Review, “No matter how diverse the workforce is, and regardless of what type of diversity we examine, diversity will not enhance creativity unless there is a culture of sharing knowledge.
Knowledge kept in silos can spell the end of an organization. Shareholders and stakeholders in public and private organizations must ask about and ensure the organization is fostering a culture of contributing ideas and having their knowledge shared across generations to achieve a greater purpose.
Organizational inclusion planning must be implemented with the goal of age diversity in mind. Organizations also must look at their knowledge infrastructure and internal communications to ensure paths to innovation.
Change is constant in business, and innovation is not just for products. For years, we’ve been saying that performance matters and leadership matters, and that continues to hold true. What also holds true is that, when you measure performance as what you achieve — instead of what your job title is, — it creates a ripple effect that satisfies shareholders, benefits customers, and meets the needs of employees.
It’s time for a new set of norms and assumptions in 2022, one where we evolve are already evolving diversity, equity, and inclusion to include access. People of all races and ages must be given access so that there can be equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Action steps for impact
There are four things every leader must build into their firm’s strategic plans to foster multigenerational workforce success:
1. Know that business is personal
If we’ve learned nothing else in the past two years, we’ve learned that it’s not businesses that drive results — it’s people. Systems can be automated and work styles can evolve, but the inherently human traits of ethics, intrinsic motivation, empathy, instinct, and discernment drive and maintain business success. These are skills that only improve with experience and age. Tech can make products and outcomes derived from those human traits more efficient, but it can’t replace it.
2. Prioritize age and experience inclusion
Employees age 50 and over are key drivers in the success of multigenerational teams. They contribute to expanding the breadth and depth of knowledge sharing. And, they value applied learning, create encore careers, and thrive in entrepreneurship and small business job creation. Employers, business leaders, community leaders, and grassroots movements must incentivize policies and programs that eliminate ageism while doing away with the perception that a job candidate is “overqualified”.
3. Focus on the three new Rs: Recruitment, Retention, and Reconnection
2021 was all about the Great Resignation and Retirement, as millions of workers left their companies in search of what’s next. The companies that will succeed in the future are the ones that will spend 2022 ushering in a new era of the Great Recruitment, Retention, and Reconnection. These companies will source and recruit employees of all ages, races, and cultures to drive innovation and be rewarded for their work.
4. Change is the only constant, so break the rules and change big
Even well-established organizations with household names need to stay fresh, flexible, adaptive, and innovative. By building workplace culture that embraces and encourages change and integrates experiences and expertise across multiple generations, successful organizations will not only meet customers where they are, but will elevate them to where they need to go next.
We must hold businesses accountable when it comes to diversity, equity, inclusion, and access. And we must educate ourselves on inherent and learned age bias and ageism practices so that they, too, can be eliminated from the workplace.
Delivering increased and impactful shareholder ROI depends on a variety of economic measurements, all of which can be enhanced and strengthened by an age-inclusive workforce. Recruiting, retaining, and rewarding intergenerational success pleases stakeholders and increases an organization’s equity and value.