I’ve often used the racial and gender equality movements to explain what it will take for leaders to create age equity in the workplace. White men first had to concede the importance of racial and gender equity in the workplace, in upper management, and on their boards before change occurred. Just as women and people of color found champions for their respective causes from white men, age equity must find champions from across the age spectrum.
It’s really simple. All generations must work together to reshape the workplace culture so age is no longer considered a detriment but rather a reflection of the diverse set of skills, abilities, experiences every employee brings to the table. For this to become a reality, leaders must acknowledge the importance of an age-diverse workforce.
Change is a process, but it can move more quickly when leaders understand the situation and inspire a shared vision for moving forward.
An October 2020 report from the Retirement Equity Lab at the New School concluded that,
Even younger workers were hard hit by COVID, with the 16 to 24 age group suffering at comparable levels as the 55 and older through the loss of retail, food service, and other part-time jobs.
How Leaders Can Facilitate Change
A survey of 6,000 employers found that 83 percent of business leaders say multigenerational workforces are critical to their companies’ growth and long-term success.
That’s good news, right?
Except that most diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives do NOT include age.
That’s part of the problem. Fortunately, it’s an easy one to fix.
Consider these five steps employers can take to better understand how age perceptions.
- Measure perceptions of age and aging in the workplace through employee surveys and focus groups.
- Measure age demographics across all people strategies from recruitment and hiring to development and promotions.
- Ensure your policies and practices, including employee benefits, are age-equitable. For example, if you have family care policies for parents of children, expand them to include any employee who may have care issues for a partner or parent.
- Include age in all unconscious bias classes. After all, age impacts everyone across any category of diversity and can create a double, triple, and sometimes a quadruple threat of bias and discrimination.
- Recognize, reward, and share best practices for building multigenerational teams, including measures for innovation, efficiency, decision-making, and outcomes.
Age equity doesn’t need to be complicated. Companies can make quick progress when leaders acknowledge how age bias, myths, and stereotypes impact their organization and then take steps to correct it.
For short educational videos to support your progress, check out Age Equity Alliance on Youtube!