Eight reasons to employ a mixed-age workforce

Rachel
Krys, marketing and communications manager of the Employers Forum on Age,
provides eight reasons why businesses should employ a more diverse workforce

By
abandoning their prejudices about what makes a ‘younger ’or ‘older ’ worker and
developing a mixed-age workforce, smart companies are gaining a competitive
advantage and financial benefit.

‘Prepare
for change’ would be a good motto for the 21st century, at a time when
businesses are constantly reinventing themselves to cope with the fast-moving
global economy.

Age
discrimination will be made illegal in 2006, and now is the time for business
to prepare for the new laws. Shining a light on policies such as long service
awards and company traditions such as early retirement can expose them to be
out of date and short- sighted. 

There
are many innovative and flexible ways to reward loyalty, inject fresh thinking
into the business and create a workforce able to withstand the rigors of
business.  The new legislation is the
perfect opportunity to make a change, be imaginative and develop a dynamic,
mixed-age workforce.

The
eight business benefits of a mixed-age workforce:

1.
Reduced turnover and increased retention

Improving
retention rates is now a key focus for many businesses.  An age-diverse workforce has been proven to
deliver lower turnover.  Given that the
cost of employing a new member of staff is between 160 per cent and 180 per
cent of salary (PWC 2001), employers can make substantial cost savings by
reducing turnover by just a couple of percentage points.

On
the other side of the coin, sometimes stagnation can be a problem.  Age diversity can inject new blood into a
business, whether by removing obstacles to promotion or attracting new
employees from a broader age range.

An
effective retention strategy will largely rely on an efficient recruitment
system and the removal of artificial criteria for promotion and
redundancy.  Age diversity helps
businesses to recruit the right people for the right jobs.

2.
Improved morale and motivation

Many
employers now find that addressing age issues delivers increased satisfaction
rates among staff of all ages. In return, this raises morale and increases
motivation, creating a happier and more productive workplace.

3.
The ability to tap new markets

A
company with a mixed-age workforce holds a potential advantage when it comes to
understanding its customer base. Staff from different age groups can provide
insights into the spending habits and aspirations of their peers in the
customer base.  This places businesses with
a mixed-age workforce in an excellent position to reach out and capitalise on
untapped markets.  It may also help them
to identify profitable new products or services.

4.
Becoming an employer of choice

An
age-diverse employer is well placed to develop a reputation as a socially
responsible employer.  An employer with
a good reputation develops a strong employment brand, and such a positive image
will be able to attract a wider pool of candidates for recruitment, and give
them an advantage in retaining their talent.

5.
Makes the organisation more attractive to investors

Increasingly,
investors judge a company by its social and environmental responsibility.  A good reputation helps a company to become
and remain an investment of choice.

Age
diversity sends out two important messages to investors; that the company is
rising to the challenge of an ageing population, and that it recognises that
discrimination is a social injustice and bad for business.

6.
Greater customer satisfaction

A
year-on-year improvement in customer (or client) satisfaction is often a key
measure of business success.  By
employing an age-diverse workforce, businesses are better placed to respond to
a wide range of customer needs and ensure customer loyalty.

7.
Enables change management

Effective
change management is essential to meet future business challenges.  A truly age-diverse workforce enables
businesses to respond rapidly to the changing employment environment and adapt
to the increasingly competitive climate.

8.
Cost savings and more flexible budgets

Age
diversity can save money. In addition to bottom-line cost savings, improving
the age mix within a business can also allow employers to divert their budget
from one cost centre to another. Reduced recruitment costs can free up budget
for additional training. Improved training and induction processes will further
impact on retention rates, and a virtuous circle develops.

To
find out more about older workforces, read our feature ‘Old hands make light
work’ in this week’s Personnel Today.

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