Aging is an uncomfortable topic that people have struggled to discuss since ancient times. That same discomfort exists in organizational diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives, too. While many CEOs experience success with overall D&I programs, a PwC study found only 8 percent of CEOs target age-related D&I in their policies.

Many don’t consider age discrimination, instead focusing on protected classes related to race, ethnicity and gender. Thus, they exclude employees or potential employees over 45 from consideration. But that must change.

The New Normal: The Five Generation Workplace

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 25 percent of workers will be at least 55 years old by 2019 and by 2020 five generations will occupy the workplace. People aren’t staying retired, studies show, with 25 percent of people in the U.S. and U.K. returning to work. Many won’t retire at all. The multi-generational workplace is here to stay.

Employers who don’t work to retain or hire over-45 talent not only face legal challenges, they also miss many of the advantages of age diversity. How do you make your organization more age diverse and inclusive in an economically sustainable way that enhances the overall employee experience?

Focus on the Business Benefits of Age D&I

Like all authentic D&I initiatives, age D&I is good for business. Diverse teams are smarter, more innovative and have higher profitability. Older workers are more engaged than younger ones, with 65 percent of employees age 55+ considered engaged, while younger staff engagement averages 58 to 60 percent.

Hiring and keeping mature employees on staff also brings in or retains skill sets and experience younger workers don’t have and would take years to develop. Older workers often have the soft skills many employers experience difficulty finding in today’s talent.

In addition to advanced industry knowledge, 50+ workers bring a focus that younger ones don’t always have. That’s probably why they’re 60 percent more productive than the 20-somethings that recruiters are most focused on today.

Get Leadership Buy-In for Age D&I

Age discrimination flourishes in the workplace, and that’s a leadership issue. Approximately 64 percent of respondents to a 2013 AARP survey age 45-74 said they’d experienced age discrimination at work and 58 percent say they believe it starts after 50. You may be maintaining policies that perpetuate this problem or leave it to human resources to tackle alone.

It’s essential to make leaders your D&I decision architects who willingly drive it as an organization-wide strategy.

Create a Bias-Free Enterprise

It may seem daunting, but you can overcome unconscious bias and create a bias-free organization. Make this a cross-functional exercise that improves the employee experience business-wide. That begins with your hiring process and extends to your employee retention efforts.

Start by understanding different generational needs and how they function in the workplace. Then, incorporate age-inclusive language and practices into D&I programs and create employee policies and benefits that support workers over 45.

Deliberately Recruit and Retain Older Workers

It may seem trendy to develop a largely under-40 workforce like those dominating the tech industry, but it’s not business savvy or practical. When everybody looks and behaves alike, their thinking is homogeneous and limited.

Deliberately seek members of the older worker brain trust, then work consciously to retain them. Get all employees on board to make yours an ageism free environment.

Want help recruiting and retaining the right employees for your organization? Email us or call 317-631-6400.