AARP, OECD, and the World Economic Forum collaborated to host the webinar series Living, Learning & Earning Longer -where on July 22, 2020, the discussion revolved around the importance of “Including Age in Diversity & Inclusion Strategies.”
People are living longer and healthier lives which means that for many they either want or need to work longer. Longer life-spans mean more opportunities for employers, governments, and people at large to start to rethink our current ideas on aging. The desire to learn and ongoing income leaves space to improve on adult education, employer benefits, and overall living conditions for the aging population. Even though most people want to continue to work in some capacity as they age, currently many countries and/or companies still have mandatory retirement ages. These limitations on age, limit inclusion and lead to an entire market segment being excluded from participating in many businesses despite continuing to impact the economy — a missing segment that will grow even more apparent as boomers age.
Employers are poised to lead aging policy changes in efforts to not only benefit the economy but businesses at large. According to Shruti Singh, a Labor Market Economist, who cited a Grover Report Survey, “83% of people speculate that a multi-generational workforce is important. However, 53% don’t include this in their policies.” Businesses who take advantage of this oversight and create policies that enforce this will help to increase employee satisfaction and foster an age-friendly community.
How to do this?
The webinar cited 3 key steps that employers can take to make age-friendly workforces:
- Ensure individuals remain employable throughout their lives with continued education and training,
- Enforce policies that prevent age discrimination, and adopt age-inclusive policies, and
- Provide opportunities for workers to remain and grow on the job.
The World Economic Forum, AARP, and partner organizations are collaborating on a research project aimed at helping employers to build, support, and maintain multigenerational workforces.
Together these organizations will collect research on 50 employers, who have agreed to be partners, in order to explore and identify the presence, best practices, and strategies around how businesses’ incorporate the following 3 dimensions of employment into their work culture:
- Create: Meaningful work, a culture of respect, inclusion, equity, and employment security and predictability for all generations.
- Invest: in recruitment across generations, assessment and retention practices, compensation and benefits, lifelong learning, health and wellness benefits, caregiving services, the physicality of the workspace, and options for phased retirement.
- Prosper: by retaining intellectual capital, raising the stability and engagement of highly skilled employees, and delivering products and services designed by a representative workforce. These work environments are thought to lead to greater personal financial security and growth.
This study currently has 30 employers and needs the additional 20 to complete the research. Ultimately it seeks to serve as a guide for employers on policies, practices, and business cases that will help other businesses learn how to best support an age-diverse workforce. Data and research are expected to be ready for release in 2021 with the launch of a digital learning platform at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting that same year.
Mike North, Assistant Professor of Management & Organizations at the Stern School of Business at New York University, started his portion of the presentation looking at ‘age’ by quoting “It is time for us to unpack the proxies [of age] and explore what it really means to have an older workforce” (Kulik et al., Academy of Management Journal 2014). In order to do that businesses need to consider how they look at their own company’s definition of:
- What is an older work?
- What is age diversity?
- How evenly are age brackets distributed?”
In the end, research has shown, according to North, that age doesn’t predict job performance. He said despite the fact that managers seemingly love senior employers for their loyalty, worth ethic, and reliability, unfortunately, older workers face consistent barriers in hiring (40% less likely to receive entry-level interviews), access to learning opportunities, and withheld resources.
Of course, diversity should yield benefits such as enhanced creativity and innovation, according to North, but it is a double-edged sword, as if not done effectively it can reduce social cohesion and cause relationship conflict and turnover.
Thus a new social contract and employment benefits package needs to be looked at to create more age-friendly environments, employers, and retirement policies.
Chronological age is not very predictive of much
While chronological age doesn’t say much for job performance that doesn’t mean even the most healthy aging members do not need to plan for retirement.
Mike Mansfield, Program Director Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement at Aegon, shed some light on the movements in retirement at the webinar. According to him, 58% of people believe the idea of a job for life is becoming a thing of the past and 57% expect a phased transition into retirement and envision working in some capacity in retirement. However, what employers are providing is quite different according to Mansfield’s research 33% of people feel their employer is not doing anything to facilitate a multi-generation workplace and only 52% offer a retirement plan.
What Can Employers Do?
Many workers actually find that being automatically enrolled in a retirement plan and receiving financial advice are desired employee benefits. Employers looking to garnish support from employees should consider wellness programs that include healthy snack options in the office or discounts for exercise programs, continued learning opportunities, and options to move from full to part-time work as life circumstances change.
Lifelong learning opportunities through companies like GetSetUp are benefits that employers can offer to employees. GetSetUp’s classes work specifically for older adults and can be customized to train on work-specific tools that directly support the older population. Furthermore, partnerships with GetSetup can help to elevate the burden of caregivers in addition to supporting the company’s older workers. By supporting caregivers’ older loved ones, companies can show a more inclusive and empathetic look at their employees’ both young and old’s responsibilities to their personal community. When employee’s loved ones have access to an online community, and classes that help them stay more connected and empowered, then employees can focus more on work.
Mansfield cited 5 fundamentals for a comfortable retirement.
- Saving early and saving habitually — Employers can help with this by providing retirement savings plans for their workers.
- Develop a written retirement strategy — Employers can help facilitate this by providing financial advisors.
- Create a backup plan for unforeseen events — Employers can implement full and part-time work options to retain great employees.
- Healthy lifestyle — Employers can offer healthy snack options in the workplace and access to free or discounted exercise programs.
- Embrace lifelong learning — Employers can offer partnerships and memberships to their workers and/or their loved ones for opportunities to continue to learn and develop new and old skills.
Employers need to take charge of their workforce and ensure it is a multi-generational force ready to face the future economy with the tools and resources needed for all employees to succeed, especially since the population gaining more and more 50+ members.