“Collaborageism”--The #Multigenerational Solution to the Age Diversity Culture Wars

I reiterate Lisa Rangel of Chameleonresumes’ continually excellent advice: To get information from all ages; and especially, don’t disparage anyone because of their age – either younger or older.

It’s difficult to pinpoint when ageism pierced the surface or became so prevalent, at least in the U.S. with its youth culture. Even political leadership was not always dominated by older men. History relates how well Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin managed to work together toward the Declaration of Independence (not a small matter) and beyond despite very different personalities. And Presidents Kennedy and Clinton in more modern times were elected over older men (no women nominees in sight). Some people would blame the problem on the Baby Boomers themselves with their youth focus and “Don’t believe anyone over 30” mantra in the 1960s.

But it makes no social or economic sense. And ageism can point both ways: toward older and younger.

No Social sense because:

  • Divisiveness hurts society and impedes progress, happiness, positive contributions to learning and education.

  • Building culture walls destroys social wealth overall.

  • There is a general desire to build communities for good. People are craving a sense of belonging while retreating to their tribes in fear.

No Economic sense because:

  • Countless studies have shown that age/generational diverse teams and workplaces have higher productivity, creativity and profitability.

  • An organization, community or team benefits significantly from the experience and maturity of older generations and the fresh perspectives of the newer taught skills of younger people.

  • Economic myths not borne out by data include:

- Older workers have a net higher cost. Actually, their knowledge, experience and judgment can produce better outcomes in a shorter time.

- And in some cases, the health care needs of those over 65 may be covered by Medicare, therefore not needing employer paid health insurance.

-They may be receiving Social Security benefits to supplement salaries.

  • Older workers tend to stay with an employer longer, meaning avoiding turnover costs, recruiting efforts and damaging workplace morale.

  • Older workers tend to be more loyal and careful about company privacy.

And yet, the negative opinions and policies about retaining older workers stick. A June 2019 poll from The Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research of more than 1,400 adult workers clearly indicates the difference of opinion about people staying in the workforce longer.

Only 30% of respondents age 18-49 thought staying in the workplace longer is good vs.50% of those age 50 and over. Negative views on the longer stay were 39% vs. 19% respectively. On the question of how longer tenure affects the U.S. economy, 38% of the younger group thought it was positive vs. 54% of the older group. Interestingly, more men than women had a negative view as did people earning over $100,000 vs. people earning $30, 000 or less.

Another economic argument in favor of retaining older workers is that they keep spending, which leads to more jobs and opportunities for all.

What can we do to change perceptions?

  • Encourage and make time for cross-generational conversation so that there is more interaction in a conducive environment to learn about and get to know co-workers of all generations and levels on a personal basis.

  • Recognize age diversity as a key component of diversity and inclusion and design programs around it and related biases as is being done for gender and race/ethnicity diversity and inclusion.

  • Publicize widely within organizations the tangible benefits of cross-generational collaboration and hiring/retention based on proven contributions and potential value rather than using age as an arbitrary measure or guide.

What ideas would you add? Please send your ideas to me to share.

Mutigenerational collaboration (“collaborageism”) to fight ageism is a significant objective of my work legacy. What is yours? Please share with me what you hope will be your legacy at work.

© Phyllis Weiss Haserot 2019