the hidden business case
Why it makes commercial sense to be a truly age positive employer
Copyright: Centre For Ageing Better Resource Space
The ageing workforce should be embraced as an opportunity. There are myriad benefits older workers bring to an organisation’s workforce – currently often 5 generations working together – to create something that is bigger than the sum of its parts.
The over 50s represent a huge untapped asset of millions of years’ worth of accrued collective ‘crystallised intelligence’: information, knowledge, wisdom and strategies, and an abundance of skills and qualities that organisations need to help them achieve some form of Covid-related economic recovery.
These attributes include resilience, adaptability, time-critical problem-solving, and mentoring; and numerous studies show older workers also consistently outperform on soft-skill metrics such as communication, negotiation and conflict resolution, and team working. Additionally, they are more able to self-manage when working remotely, part of ‘new normal’ working practice.
Various studies build out the business case. For example, research by McKinsey (Note 1), Bain & Co (Note 2) and a study by Erik Larson (Note 3) on the pay-offs of a diverse and inclusive workforce, highlight data suggesting a strong correlation with financial (out)performance as a result of their better decision-making, problem-solving and innovation. In general, organisations in the top quartile for gender diversity and ethnic diversity are 25% and 36% (respectively) are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians (Note 1). Meanwhile, for organisations with a D&I mix which also includes a wide age range (of more than 20 years), the decision-making related performance is further improved: while gender diverse teams made better decisions 73% of the time when compared to single decision makers, when age diversity was included this rose to 80%, rising to 87% for gender-diverse teams that also incorporated different geographic locations/ cultures.
Furthermore, multigenerational teams with a wide age range of 25 years or more (from youngest to oldest member), met or exceeded expectations 73% of the time, while those with a narrow range of less ten years did so only 35% of the time (Note 3). This is corroborated by other studies (Notes 4&5), which also show that mixed-age teams are more productive than teams of workers all the same age; and that, contrary to stereotypes, mature workers have a great capacity to learn new skills, and engage in as much innovative behaviour as younger staff.
There are also associated savings from retaining older workers rather than hiring new talent - including recruitment and training costs, and more generally, mitigating turnover from more job-transient, younger generations (Note 6); they have also been shown to be more reliable, with lower rates of absenteeism, while also reporting higher levels of job satisfaction and wellbeing, making for happier teams – and a positive work culture (Notes 4&7).
Furthermore, myths about productivity falling at older ages are not backed by evidence (Note 5&8): the consensus among researchers on longevity is that people can remain economically productive into their seventies and eighties. Yet many people are often blocked from working beyond 65 by corporate retirement policies policy, notwithstanding the abolition of the state Default Retirement Age.
Yet nearly a quarter (22%) of employers think that their organisation is unprepared for the ageing workforce (Note 9); and while most employers have policies relating to age discrimination and to support older workers for compliance purposes, their implementation is often ineffective.
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Diversity Matters, McKinsey Insights series: ongoing research across 15 countries and more than 1,000 large companies
The Decision-Driven Organization, Bain&Co: decision-making effectiveness 95% correlated with financial performance
Hacking Diversity with Inclusive Decision Making, Erik Larson/Cloverpop: analysis of c600 business decisions made by 200 different business teams in a wide variety of companies over 2 years
Zwick, Göbel and Fries; Allyson Zimmermann, LSE
The diversity and inclusion revolution: Eight powerful truths, Deloitte
American Journal of Psychology: Understanding the motivational benefits of knowledge transfer for older and younger workers e.g. Do older workers affect workplace performance?, Sheffield University
IFF /Ageing Better survey
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