How do I create a good blend of youth and experience?
Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. This is also the case when looking to create an effective workforce.
As lifespans increase and medicine advances, age diversity in the workplace is the coming trend. A third of the UK workforce is aged over 50, making it essential for employers to recognise how age diversity benefits them.
A diverse team can provide your company with a whole range of skills that a team made entirely of one group could not. Coupling the enthusiasm and ambition of youth, with its lack of fear and innovative techniques, with the gardened knowledge of experience, could be the difference between success and failure.
Being positive about age is not about comparing stereotypes – it's about building an effective workforce through harnessing each generation's strengths.
- Traditionalists – the over 60's, mostly men who are hard-working and put duty first. They live by the values they learned in the post-war years and have stayed loyal to only one or two employers in a working lifetime, holding respect for authority and conventionality.
- Baby Boomers – in their mid-40s to 60, with a strong work ethic. They believe in personal growth, hard work, individuality, and equality. Boomers are at the heart of today's management, leading the trend toward delayed and staged retirement.
- Generation X – those in their 20s to 40s who are self-reliant and confident, valuing parenting, education and independence above work. They will work for the employer that best meets their needs, as they seek, above all, work-life balance.
- Generation Y – in their early 20s or younger and the newest employees. They tend to be self-confident multi-taskers, with a short attention span, who demand ownership of their work.
Organisations who are positive about age diversity experience benefits with: a wider range of skills and experience to call on, improved staff retention rates, higher morale, less absenteeism – all of which lead to: higher productivity, a positive image and access to wider customer bases.
Getting the right mix
There are certain legal restrictions in targeting certain age groups so to actively ask for an older or younger applicant will land you in hot water. However, there are certain techniques you can use to find the right mix, and make sure everyone gets on.
- Choose your targets – if you are hunting for experience, give yourself a presence in specific publications and websites whose readership would contain an older generation of candidates. This will also work for a youth audience, although you may need to spread your net wider.
- Never discount youth – many companies lose bright young things by not recognising their skill sets early enough. A high turnover of staff, for the most part, can be caused by poor employee management policy. To avoid this, review your team regularly to evaluate their progression. Youth is ambitious but also impatient. If you recognise a suitable candidate, look to promote internally when restructuring.
- Listen to feedback – If you ask for an opinion, be prepared for an answer. Employees can operate more effectively when they feel they have a voice in the workplace. Young graduates are just as eager to voice their opinion so give them a platform to do so, encouraging internal employee forums and discussion groups.
- Organising social events – remembering that they should be activities that the majority of the workforce would appreciate. They are designed to cement bonds in your team, so a go-karting trip may sound like a good idea, but not for the three 60 year old ladies in accounts.
- Accept differences – whilst recognising the need to operate as a team, accept that socially, your workforce will be poles apart. Cater for these equally and you will keep both happy. Simple measures such as energy drinks alongside the traditional tea and coffee would be a step in the right direction.
- Maintain control – a successful team will operate regardless of their backgrounds with the correct leadership. Use the information you collect in your employee reviews to build up a more thorough overview of your team's individual strengths and weaknesses.
There is no hard and fast rule as to what makes a good ratio between youth and experience. It might seem more cost effective to employ a greater number of younger candidates and utilise those with experience in supervisory roles. But this is a mere tradition and each team should be built on the merits of their component members.
We inhabit a world where 60-year olds have young children; 70 year olds run marathons and attend university; 30 year olds take career breaks; and teenagers use the Internet to make more money in a week than many others do in a lifetime. Make sure your business isn't missing out on these skills.
Discuss this issue on The Employer Forum.