Organisations have a long way to go before they will be able to benefit from a more age-diverse workforce, according to a new study from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
It came after research by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) showed that workplaces are diversifying in age as more people continue to work past retirement age. Indeed, it is expected to reach a point where the oldest members of staff could potentially be old enough to be the great-grandparents of new entrants to the workforce.
But while UKCES suggested that the changing dynamics of workplaces could lead either to innovative new approaches or unhelpful tensions between very different age groups, CIPD says its new research shows employers and staff alike are currently focusing on the positive potential of such developments.
Nearly a third of workers said they did not anticipate any challenges in working alongside colleagues of all ages, while staff and their employers both claimed that the biggest benefits of this diversity were the ability to share knowledge and greater potential for innovation.
“Fears of intergenerational tensions in the workplace couldn’t be further from the truth,” says Claire McCartney, CIPD research advisor. “Companies report important business benefits such as knowledge sharing and enhanced customer service, while employees clearly enjoy the new perspectives and fresh ideas inspired by working with people of diverse ages.”
However, the study also indicated that organisations are not doing enough to help themselves make the most of this potential. Some 34 per cent of employers said they were doing nothing to make sure they had access to skilled workers across the full age range.
The problem extended into management as well, although this will be crucial if staff from different demographics are to work together effectively. Even though a fifth of employees thought their bosses were ineffective at managing inter-generational teams, 46 per cent of employers said managers are not trained to do this. In fact, these organisations did not even have plans in place to improve the situation.
Ms McCartney explains that businesses need to adapt and develop if they want to make the most of the benefits an age-diverse workforce can offer.
“Practical and immediate steps they should take include employing strategies to bring in and develop talent of all ages and providing line managers with more support,” she adds.