Multigenerational workforce is the best | Sunday Observer

Multigenerational workforce is the best

18 September, 2022

Employees are worth more than the sum of their own abilities and how they interact with others can have a big impact on the productivity of an organisation that employs them.There’s a notion that older people are dull, slow, and probably less productive in the workplace.

But what about the wealth of experience that older workers carry, years of sharpened problem-solving skills, and career knowledge? These traits also count for something, don’t they? So, the big question is, are older workers actually more productive than younger employees?

Young employees are perceived to be more energetic, digital savvy, smarter, creative and risk takers. Old employees are more knowledgeable, experienced, and reliable and depending on the individual, can be more analytical and sharper as compared to the young ones.

Older and younger workers are thought to have skill sets that complement each other. It’s well-established that mixed-age teams can be more productive than those which are less age-diverse.

It’s possible that as the most experienced workers retire, the loss of this collaborative dynamic is reducing productivity as seen in a business organisation. We have reasons to believe that the emerging multi-generational workforce is an opportunity. Contrary to popular belief, age diversity might actually stimulate and support creative thinking and innovation.

With accelerated outflow of employees instigated by the poor economic environment in the country, especially the younger generation, it would create a vacuum in the market over the next couple of years with the anticipated economic recovery. Sri Lanka’s working population might be on an unstoppable course towards old age, but this demographic transformation doesn’t have to come with crippling economic consequences; instead, we can view it as an opportunity. And changing our attitudes towards old age and the potential of older workers is the first step.

Successful older employees use their brains differently, and by doing so are doing as well as younger people. The interpretation is that older people having a plethora of knowledge are relying more on their experience when processing new information. Instead of considering all the new information when making a decision, they might extrapolate from past experience, dismissing some new information, but working more efficiently with the information they have and ultimately doing just as well as younger people with more powerful brains. So, young people are indeed able to run faster, but old people know the shortcuts. In the end, at least some older people make it to the finish line just as fast.

Complement each other

The benefit of age diversity is that it enables workers of different ages to collaborate, share knowledge and support each other in complementary ways. Age diversity has the potential to make a firm’s productivity greater than what the sum of its workers’ individual productivity would suggest.

Such complementarities are particularly strong between young and older workers. Where young and older employees work together, young workers often benefit from the advice of their older colleagues, who can draw on their long experience, from the guidance that they receive from their managers, who may be older than they are, and from the transfer of firm-specific knowledge, accumulated over years, that age-diverse teams can ensure.

If it is well-managed, age diversity in the workplace can bring about several business benefits. For a start, an age-diverse workforce can offer a larger set of skills and may thereby play a key role for sustainability and profitability.

Age diversity can also reduce the risk for the employer that a large part of the workforce stops working at the same time due to common life events for certain age groups like the birth of a child or other health events or risks.

Multigenerational workforces may, therefore, be more stable and resilient to shocks, such as that induced by Covid-19; yet, the association of diversity with resilience has been largely unexplored.

An age-inclusive work culture also serves strategic management purposes, since some firms use the reputation of being an age-inclusive employer as a marketing tool to attract talent. An age-diverse workforce may lead to better business-to-consumer and business-to-business relationships, as representing the age groups of the firm’s clients in the own workforce makes it easier to know what customers need.

Retaining older workers would also have the tantalising and rather unexpected benefit of boosting the wages and employment prospects of the younger generation too. The idea is that if older people stay in work, they will have more money to spend, and this benefits the economy, which is good for everyone.