The Importance of Age Diversity
When was the last time that you allowed an age-based bias to infiltrate your hiring practices? Your first thought is likely, “I would never allow bias to affect my hiring decisions”; however, it happens more often than we would like to admit. Maybe you have thought that a candidate was too young to fill a position due to a lack of commonality with others in the office or a lack of experience. Similarly, you may have thought about how an older candidate was not equipped to use newer technology or to learn a new system. When hiring for your team, it is crucial that you see past these age-based biases to find the value in each qualified candidate, regardless of age.
Old, young, or somewhere in between, each individual has perspectives, knowledge and skills that they can contribute to a team. Limitations should not be placed upon candidates based on their age; instead, their strengths should be acknowledged and incorporated to create a successful team. The following are a few reasons that you should incorporate age diversity into your hiring practices.
1.Differing Perspectives: What comes to mind when you think of differing perspectives? Conflict? Lack of comradery? It can be difficult to view adding a new team member with differing perspectives as a beneficial hiring decision; however, companies with employees of varying ages benefit from the range of perspectives that their employees offer. It’s not just the youngsters who are gaining insight from the perspectives of their more mature peers, it is also older generations learning from their younger team members. For example, while older generations tend to stay with one company for practically their entire career, younger generations are moving companies and job hopping more frequently. Through having age diversity within your company, you will have team members who have seen what works for a company long term paired with new ideas for success coming in to the company. Although it can be difficult to bridge the age gap so that team members are open to hearing differing perspectives, if facilitated and encouraged, it is invaluable.
2. Knowledge and Skills: Although we should not allow bias to deter us from making a quality hire, it would be a disservice to not even acknowledge that there are different skills and knowledge associated with each age group. For example, with Gen Z entering the workforce in droves, it is necessary to acknowledge that there may be benefits to hiring a member of the first generation to truly grow up with technology at their fingertips. Not only are members of Gen Z typically in tune with current technology, but there is also a level of comfortability that lends itself to learning and seeking new technology to utilize in their work. Rather than allowing yourself to think, “I can’t hire them, they don’t have enough real-world experience”, look past your bias and see what a younger generation can add to your team.
This does not mean that older generations do not have, or cannot acquire, tech knowledge and a new tech-based skillset; rather, it means that the biased thinking that you “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” may be preventing you from seeing the positives of working with someone from a generation that did not grow up with social media, email and texting. For example, you may think that hiring a more mature candidate will be difficult because the preferred communication within the company is primarily texting and emailing. Instead of letting that age-based bias prevent you from hiring them, consider that the interpersonal skills that they developed throughout their tech-less career could be crucial in communication with clients and customers.
3.Innovation: The best way to encourage innovation that leads to the creation of successful business practices is to incorporate fresh perspectives and knowledge with experience and tried and true practices. It is difficult to be innovative with the same ideas and opinions floating around the office, making age diversity one way to troubleshoot recurring issues and become a top competitor in your field.
While there are many benefits to creating an age diverse team, it comes with its own set of difficulties; however, with effective communication and involved management, the positives outweigh the negatives. The next time you find yourself allowing an age-based bias to discourage you from hiring a qualified candidate, consider instead how the diversity in their age can add to the success of your team.