Disrupting Aging in the Workplace: Profiles in Intergenerational Diversity Leadership
Today, it is common to see four or five different generations working side by side in many workplaces, and that trend will continue in the future. Recognizing that differences exist in the experiences, expectations, styles, and perspectives of people from different generations has prompted some companies to take action. While differences can sometimes be a source of conflict, these same differences can become a source of strength and innovation when addressed and managed well.
The AARP Public Policy Institute conducted a series of case studies of leading employers to examine programs and practices that address age diversity and the intergenerational workforce. Five companies from a variety of industries and of different sizes were selected for inclusion in the study: Huntington Ingalls Industries, UnitedHealth Group, Centrica, PNC, and AT&T. Interviews were conducted in February and March 2016 with human resources staff, diversity officers, and program managers.
Key Trends in Diversity and Inclusion Strategies
Diversity and inclusion remains a strong focus of organizations of all sizes, both in the United States and across the globe. Companies are devoting significant resources to ensuring their workforces are diverse and that all employees have a voice. Several themes emerge as a result of this inquiry:
- Diversity in isolation is no longer a sufficient goal; inclusion must be part of the strategy.
- Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is a CEO priority for many companies; managers are now being held accountable for implementing the D&I strategy throughout all levels of the organization.
- Companies believe that implementing a D&I strategy can have a positive effect on employee engagement, productivity, and the bottom line.
- As demographics change, it is vital to attract and retain a workforce that mirrors the diversity of a company’s customer base.
Highlights of Promising Practices
- Talent recruitment across all ages helps build a diverse and experienced workforce.
(United Health Group, Centrica PLC)
- Apprentice programs open to people of all ages helps recruit and retain talent.
(Huntington Ingalls Industries, Centrica PLC)
- Special programs designed to help people reenter the workforce following an extended absence provide an opportunity for permanent employment.
- Raising awareness of intergenerational differences enhances understanding and leads to better-functioning teams. Companies can raise awareness through such methods as videos, training programs, events, and employee resource groups focused on intergenerational issues.
(Huntington Ingalls Industries, UnitedHealth Group, PNC, AT&T)
- Employee resource groups increase employee engagement and often house mentoring programs. Some have evolved into employee business resource groups that help solve business problems and further business goals. Some companies use employee groups as a path for leadership development.
(Huntington Ingalls Industries, PNC, AT&T)
- Cross-generational mentoring programs help facilitate knowledge transfer—a critical need for many companies.