Age Diversity in the Workplace

All the talk about Millennials taking over the workplace may obscure an important fact: Americans aged 50+ are staying engaged in the workforce longer than ever and the fastest growing segment (statistically, not in sheer numbers) of the workforce is aged 65+! Sure, an estimated 10,000 Boomers retire each day, but many don’t retire and many “Boomerangs” seek work after retirement. This trend will likely continue in the coming decades due to these factors:

  • Longevity: growing life expectancy thanks to new medicines and an understanding of healthy lifestyles;
  • Satisfaction: retirees may seek paid work to keep their minds active, maintain social interaction and for personal satisfaction;
  • Technology: back-breaking physical work takes a toll on the human body and often forces retirement, but lighter duty “desk work” does not create such wear and tear on workers;
  • Money: some retirees have lifestyle expectations that require supplementing their retirement savings with a paycheck

Employers can benefit greatly from this trend. Older workers possess a vast lifetime of experience and skills to leverage. They can also help bring the “new kid” Millennials up to speed!

Employers must pro-actively build a strong defense against the threat of age discrimination claims by taking action, including:

  • Train: Manager and Supervisors must understand their responsibilities around age diversity, including casual “off the cuff” communications with employees that can encourage complaints.
  • Document: Decisions to hire, promote and train should all be from well-documented processes that are based on sound business-driven reasons and not presumptions, stereotypes or other subjective and arbitrary criteria.
  • Culture: Foster a culture that respects diversity and opens doors of opportunity to all.

To minimize exposure to legal risks and to make the most of the available workforce, employers should give age diversity equal attention to other diversity efforts. It just makes good business sense!

MSEC members are encouraged to contact us to discuss workplace diversity, concerns about discrimination claims and steps to create an inclusive work environment.

Full of helpful tips, “Disrupting Aging in the Workplace”, a 2016 AARP report, shares examples of American employers’ efforts to re-imagine their practices and expand opportunities for older workers.