Age Diversity in Your Workplace


Zattatat Gang discuss age diversity in manufacturing
Do small business owners really have to think about stuff like this??

You as a small business owner have a million things on your plate already. There’s the technical side of your manufacturing process, the marketing and sales side of the business, the inevitable legal and logistical issues that arise…

But yes, if you’re not 100% self-employed (meaning, if you have any employees or even contractors), you will also be better off in the long run if you invest a little time to think consciously and be deliberate about the team you’re assembling. And for most organizations that will mean considering…

Age Diversity

You’re smart so you probably assumed this, but just in case: :p Age diversity means having people of different ages on your team. And there are many benefits to having a team with such a makeup, whether we’re talking about a business, government, nonprofit, or even a hobby-based organization like, for example, a Toastmasters club or an Improv comedy team. First up:

Some cognitive skills tend to increase over time and others tend to decrease.

As it was put in a recent article in MIT’s Sloan Management Review, crystallized intelligence (what we lay people would probably call wisdom or experience) and verbal abilities tend to increase with age, whereas some of the more precision-based abilities – such as selective attention, working memory, and perceptual speed – tend to decrease with age. Social skills, while not mentioned in that particular article, are another example of a skill that’s both important to business and known to increase with age.

Rhonda and Process Cat talking
So, the best all-around team will have people of all ages.

And diversifying your team’s cognitive skill set isn’t the only benefit to having people of different ages in your workforce. Another big benefit is…

Different generations have different perspectives!

Basically, people of the same generation lived through the same things so they have shared experiences. For example, Princess Capybara is 36 which makes her a Millenial. Since she also grew up middle-class in the United States (for this article :p ), that means she grew up with things like ice cream trucks, Disney movies, and America Online Instant Messanger.

Rhonda is 53 which makes her on the older end of Generation X. Her big cultural references were, therefore, Nirvana and Star Wars. (Sometimes being a stereotype is fun!) But she also lived through serious international events like the fall of the Berlin Wall, and more pervasive cultural things like the popularization of home computers.

And note that, though they’re the oldest and youngest of the Zattatat crew, Rhonda and Princess Capybara are still only one generation apart! The real workforce currently includes people from Generation Z at the young end, Millenials, Generation X, Baby Boomers, the Silent Generation, and probably even a few from the Greatest Generation (Currently aged 97 at the very youngest!)

Your business will benefit from having people of different ages act as a mouthpiece for their generation of customers or employees, even if that’s not at all what they signed up for.

And finally, there’s the…

Mixed-Company Phenomenon

Basically? When working in a group that’s not homogenous…

Process Cat whispering 
People tend to behave more professionally!

Yeah, it’s true.

So in the end?

Zattatat Gang Celebrating
Age diversity ends up being better for everyone!

Weekly Challenge:

Have you consciously thought about seeking out younger and older workers for your business? If not, think about ways you could diversify your hiring practices next time you have an open position!

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