When it comes to generational difference, we naturally have assumptions about what we think or feel towards certain age groups. But what if we started taking people out of these preconceived boxes and regard them as individuals instead? Based on recent findings from the Robert Walters ANZ whitepaper, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist Trish Hart tells us how we can encourage business leaders and professionals to unite and bust the myths around age in the workplace.
Why is it important for organisations to focus on the subject of age diversity?
People have been researching and talking about diversity for a long time. The movement started with the social concept of diversity being the “right thing to do” following the introduction of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 in NSW. When combined with inclusion, diversity is now seen to have a significant positive impact on innovation and the “bottom line”, so as well as being socially important, it also has a commercial impact on an organisation.
What can hiring managers and organisations do to ensure that they consider the benefits of age diversity in the recruitment process?
There are really three important considerations which include:
1. Making the right choices
Preconceptions of hiring managers can be quite skewed. One result in the Robert Walters whitepaper demonstrated that 84% of Baby Boomers professionals want to “explore new ways of working to see if there is a better approach” rather than “tried and tested ways because you know it works”. But when Hiring Managers described the characteristics of Baby Boomers, only 5% felt that they were open to new ideas. To avoid this, we need to try and make the right choices without letting our unconscious bias intervene.
2. Setting the scene
One of the major areas for conflict at work between the generations was identified as the different levels of work ethic and commitment.
Simon Sinek referred to this in a recent TED talk in which he outlined the idea of the Golden circle. It is made up of three areas – the WHAT, the HOW, and the WHY. These circles are also linked to sections of your brain. The WHAT is related to the neocortex, a part of the cerebral cortex concerned with sight and hearing where rational and analytical thought and language take place. But the HOW and more importantly the WHY are where all human behaviour and decision-making take place with no language. The lymbic part of the brain is where you get “gut” decisions, and feelings like trust and loyalty. People don’t buy what an organisation does, they buy why they do it. If you hire people who get the WHY, they will work with blood, sweat and tears for what they believe in. If you hire them for the WHAT then they will work for the paycheck.
Organisations need to set the scene and manage expectations for the work ethic and commitment. They should look to hiring talent who believe in the WHY and can be trained in the WHAT - because it is not so easy the other way around.
3. Understand why they are leaving
Across all generations the overwhelming reason why people leave their job is “poor leadership”. So choosing the right leaders and leadership development is a key factor in retention across all generations. But what are employees looking for in a leader? Gen Y said that they are looking for someone that they can learn from, while hiring managers believe that this reason is fairly unimportant. And when the same organisations were asked if they have mentoring programs available, only one in five does. Only one in five are giving Gen Ys what actually matters to them.
What advice would you give business leaders to encourage them to move forward on the subject of age diversity?
We need to embrace the similarities that people have regardless of age and the innovation that a diverse age group can bring. Age diversity can bring huge benefit to an organisation, if managed in the right way.
As individuals live longer, and their careers extend beyond the traditional retirement age, employers will increasingly find themselves managing a workforce whose ages range across six or more decades. Such age diversity offers an exciting challenge, especially as all generations surveyed in the whitepaper were tech savvy, ready to learn and eager to collaborate.
The full survey results can be found in the whitepaper Generation Gaps? Mythbusting assumptions about age in the workforce.
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