Insights

Why start-ups and small businesses should build an age diverse workforce


Published - 19th December 20195 min read
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In the exciting world of start-ups and small businesses, sometimes it's far too easy to forget about the ageing population when hiring. An obvious first thought is ‘cheap labour’ in the form of an ambitious and career hungry graduate. Of-course there is a strong place for these individuals, but equally, there is a place for the older, more experienced skilled demographic. The benefits of mixing these two generations together can be invaluable.

In order for companies to gain the benefits of a productive age-diverse workforce, people need to change their views around the outdated and hindering beliefs about older workers. Although generational differences may be a source of conflict in the workplace, these same differences can also become a source of strength and innovation.

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Age diversity within teams can be positively related to performance when groups are involved in complex decision-making tasks, due to the fact that a broad range of opinions can reach a more informed decision. Bringing in older workers can help reduce the risk of a bad decision being made and help to look at things from a broader perspective. This should strike a chord with small businesses, especially start-ups, whose workforce is stereotypically dominated by individuals with less than 2 years experience. This is not denying the fact that the fresh-faced graduates have a lot to offer, and certainly do not lack enthusiasm. However, this should not overlook the wisdom built up over 25+ years in the working world.

Another considerable advantage to a multi-generational workforce is the possibility to transfer knowledge and skills through a mentoring relationship. Mentoring is a popular practise which occurs in businesses all shapes and sizes, and boasts many success stories. Alongside increasing job satisfaction and enhancing peer recognition, mentoring can assist an individual's development, far beyond the possibilities they may have had on their own. Older, more skilled workers can pass down valid advice and learnings from personal mistakes that can massively help to shape a young person starting out. This of course has an overarching benefit to the business, and mainly occurs when a balanced workforce of ages is present.

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It's clear that employees of different ages can bring different dimensions to the workplace, and what a millennial may struggle with, a 45-year-old could excel in. For instance, an experienced professional is likely to have built up resilience and an understanding of office politics. Getting to grips with the office dynamics, which aren't always too pleasant could take a while for someone early in the career to get used to. The benefit of hiring an more experienced individual, is that they could get up and running faster, which essentially is a cost saving to the business.

In addition to the notion of already having ‘business understanding and etiquette’ as it were, another point which gives the older generation an edge is the likelihood they will need less training and supervision. They will have experience of numerous managers with different styles and therefore learnt how to adapt and get cracking with the work. Although it's fantastic that graduates are eager to learn and ask lots of questions, certain jobs that need completing would be more suited to someone with a breadth of skill and expertise.

So, when you are next considering hiring an individual, whether that be full or part-time, really make sure you are evaluating what you need from the role and look at your current workforce. Is there diversity? Do you think you have a multi-generational team? The benefits are clear and shouldn’t be ignored, especially in a smaller business where key decisions are being made on a daily basis.

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Author - Sophie Goddard