How Age Diversity in the Workplace Is Disrupting HR Practices
January 29, 2018 by Martina Markovska
The growing influence of age diversity in the workplace is driving HR professionals to reevaluate their current HR practices to better fit the needs of particular employee age groups.
It’s quite evident that age diversity in the workplace is disrupting HR practices. So we’ve done a bit of digging to find out exactly how age diversity is affecting HR professionals in their decision making process concerning HR practices.
Reduction in Force (RIF)
There comes a time when organizations need to make reductions and lay off employees. However, the reduction in force process is not so simple, especially when dealing with employees over 40.
Reduction in force is one area where age diversity in the workplace affects HR practices, especially when dealing with older workers. There are certain age discrimination laws in place, like the OWBPA, that protect older workers from unfair work dismissal based on their age.
As a result, organizations and HR professionals should adhere to age discrimination laws in all their HR practices, particularly when reducing staff. If you’re offering severance packages to terminated employees, here’s what you should NOT include in your severance agreements with employees over 40.
Different Work Priorities
Different age groups have different work priorities. What might seem attractive to younger employees may not necessarily spark the same level of interest with older employees. HR professionals must be able to distinguish between the core values of employees in different age groups and review HR practices based on these priorities.
Boomers and Generation X
Typically, employees over 40 value work environments that offer more practicality when it comes to their professional roles. According to a recent study from CIPD, one of the top priorities for employees over 40 is flexible working hours, maintaining a work-life balance, and a cohesive work environment.
Here are some of the main characteristics of boomers and generation X in the workplace:
- Practical – Older workers and employees over 40 prefer drawing a line between work and personal life. They would rather have flexible work hours so they can spend more time with family.
- Cohesive – You can often see older workers supporting teamwork and advocating for employee rights.
- Loyal – Employees over 40 generally spend less time job-hopping and look for professional stability.
The values and needs of employees over 40 are slowly but surely changing HR practices across sectors. HR professionals are realizing that it’s crucial to meet older workers’ expectations not only to avoid age discrimination but to strengthen their business processes.
According to the aforementioned study, younger employees or millennials prioritize the feeling of self-worth at work. They want to feel appreciated, trusted, and recognized for their achievements. Additionally, they value the freedom of making professional decisions without being micromanaged or undermined.
Here are some of the main characteristics that define millennials in the workplace:
- Fast-paced – Annual reports and reviews may have sufficed in the past but now younger workers are looking for instant gratification, namely real-time feedback about their performance from managers and supervisors.
- Tech-savvy – Younger employees are more in tune with technology and follow the latest trends in technological advancement. This makes them more efficient in finding ways to perform tasks with the help of technology.
- Multitaskers – Millennials are used to various distractions around them so they have an enormous ability to multitask and focus on several things at once. They prefer doing a variety of tasks that would help their career rather than one task at a time.
HR professionals need to understand the environment that is influencing millennials’ professional expectations and implement it in their HR practices.
Organizations have to review their HR practices in terms of employee benefits to better fit the needs of individual employees. Almost 57% of people report employee benefits and perks as a major influence when choosing between jobs. This is why organizations are getting more creative and flexible with their employee benefits. A new study even suggests that companies that have strong work-life policies have a competitive edge over those that don’t. Therefore, companies must offer something unique and worthwhile to employees in order to attract and retain talent.
Glassdoor have listed some of the most interesting employee benefits offered by big-name companies, such as Salesforce, Airbnb, and Google. You don’t need to mimic their employee benefits program, but you can get some ideas on how you can improve your organization’s employee benefits to better meet the needs and expectations of different age groups.
Employee benefits should also reflect the needs of a particular age or social group. Some employee benefits that would appeal to employees from different age groups include:
- Healthcare plans
- Retirement lifestyle planning
- Parental leave
- Childcare services
- Pet insurance plans
- Sabbatical programs
- Fitness and wellness programs
- Personalized outplacement packages
- Free lunch
- Flexible schedules
- Relocation benefits
- Community programs
Keep in mind that all your employee benefits programs should be available to anyone eligible to receive employee benefits. Companies should not use age as an excuse to limit access to employee benefits.
Another area where age diversity in the workplace is disrupting HR practices is in the recruitment process. HR professionals should look for a mix of skills that can be found across different age groups. Additionally, they should focus on recruitment methods that can attract and be accessed by different age groups.
For example, if your job advertisement is listed only on social media, you should think about whether it would it be accessible to an older employee who may not be familiar with these types of online platforms. Changes in HR practices should be made so that there is no age discrimination in recruitment processes.
Following the recruitment process, HR practices should extend to onboarding approaches. How will the new employee integrate into their new role and work environment? What kind of training will they undergo? How long will their orientation period be and who will be their mentor? Does the process embrace age diversity? These are just some questions the HR department should consider.
Your recruitment and onboarding process should be free of age discrimination. Instead it should embrace age diversity in the workplace.
Pros and Cons of Age Diversity in the Workplace
When it comes to age diversity in the workplace there are both advantages and disadvantages – as there is with everything. Companies should weigh in both the pros and cons to determine how age diversity in the workplace will actually affect their own HR practices.
Some of the benefits of embracing age diversity in the workplace include:
- Different perspectives – Having different opinions about how to perform a task can have a positive impact on organizations. It challenges employees to get out of their comfort zone. For instance, older workers may stick to familiar methodologies, whereas younger workers may be more experimental with their procedures. This clash in perspectives may be just what your company needs to filter new ideas.
- More knowledge – Age diversity in the workplace encourages knowledge-sharing. Older workers may have more experience with business processes and can mentor younger employees, while younger employees tend to be more tech-savvy and can share their knowledge about technology.
- Improved business – Having a multigenerational workforce will strengthen your business processes. Having a mature funnel of ideas from older workers as well as fresh input from younger employees can expand a business’s horizons. Although a company unquestionably needs the experience and knowhow of seasoned employees, it also heavily relies on the lively ambition of younger employees.
Nevertheless, age diversity in the workplace can have some downsides:
- Generational gaps – Sometimes it may be difficult for older and younger employees to find mutual ground due to generational differences.
- Group clusters – Differences in age may drive employees to form their own little groups and fail to communicate with senior or younger employees.
- Opposed views – Employees many not want to adapt the views and methods used by their older or younger coworkers and this clash of views may have counterproductive results.
We can confidently say that age diversity in the workplace is disrupting HR practices – for the better. It pushes HR professionals to think outside the box and view diversity in business as a valuable asset.
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