For years, organizations have acknowledged the business case for diversity. Having a more inclusive workplace makes sense because it stimulates innovative thinking and allows employers to tap into a bigger pool of potential talent. Yet more than half of the 6,000 global employers surveyed by AARP in 2020 revealed that they do not include age in diversity and inclusion policies. Those that don't leverage age diversity are at a disadvantage in terms of innovation, institutional knowledge, employee engagement and workforce stability. Generational diversity in the workforce is here to stay, so it makes good business sense to foster an age-inclusive culture within your organization.
Whether you have an established diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) function or are in the process of building one, adding age as an element doesn't have to be difficult. Here are six areas to consider when incorporating age as an element of diversity and inclusion.
Be deliberate about age as a diversity element
Specifically noting age as an aspect of diversity is a foundational step to take in the process of including it throughout your DEI work. If you don't name it, you won't address it. And specifically referencing age sends a clear signal that workers of all generations are valued. Here are three immediate actions you can take.
- Make sure you mention age in your official statements on diversity. This includes the common equal employment opportunity (EEO) statements as well as communications that explain your organization's stance on the value of diversity in all forms.
- Review diversity policies to ensure age is included. This could mean language explaining company culture and values, an overview of DEI goals and action plans, statements from leadership, and information on non-retaliation policies.
- Sign the AARP Employer Pledge. Doing so publicly affirms your commitment to building an age-inclusive workforce.
Build age into anti-bias training
Whether you use individual modules or take a holistic approach, anti-bias training should acknowledge age as an aspect of identity that can be targeted, consciously or unconsciously, for discrimination. AARP research shows that despite a growing awareness of generational diversity in the workforce, age discrimination is still distressingly common. When evaluating different options, look for trainings that:
- Refrain from over-identifying personality traits with specific generations. While terms like “boomer” and “millennial” are often peppered throughout generational awareness training, they do more harm than good if they simply reinforce stereotypes about people based on age.
- Acknowledge that people can be discriminated against because they are too old or too young. Discounting workers’ contributions based on assumptions about their age can affect anyone.
- Break down the numerous and widely circulated myths and stereotypes that relate to age, such as the belief that intelligence peaks at 20.
If you can't find suitable or affordable off-the-shelf training, dig into your existing training to see if you can adapt workshops and exercises on other diversity topics to accommodate age.