A recent headline from a Spanish newspaper reads: “Talent in technology is needed (regardless of age).” Besides the challenge that covering today’s demand in technological expertise represents, what captured my attention was the headline’s reference to the age gap. The article highlights how—due to lack of personnel—companies are beginning to recruit employees “even” over 50 years of age. This is clearly contrasted in LinkedIn, the employment-focused social media platform. A large amount of job posts abide by their preference for employees under the age of 40. Their posts, however, no longer openly state this requirement as they’ve done until recently: “We’re searching for a Logistics expert with demonstrated experience in people management, solid finance skills, proactive, up to 35 years of age.” In times of social inclusion, equal conditions and inclusion of minorities, discrimination may be more subtle, but still remains.
Recent social and economic ruptures have proven that empowering people through equal opportunities helps not only mend our world's age-long debt, but also gives way to an immense amount of innovation and talent for our future. However, we might be falling short of our goals.
Gender equality and inclusion of women in the workspace was a long-time debt owed to our societies. For too long, our companies have limited women and our organizations’ vision and growth capacity. This experience anticipates a similar mistake we’re making regarding an aspect of inclusion that we’ve left unattended: the age gap.
More than ever, different generations are coexisting in our organizations. With Baby Boomers stepping away, Gen X and Y are filling management positions, while Gen Z is installing their digital footprint. Less than 10 years remain for Gen Alpha (born in or after 2011) to mark their path, proving our alphabet has run out of letters to reflect different age groups, visions and expectations. Technology has made it possible for 55-year-old employees to work hand in hand with employees nearly half their age, despite possibly living miles away, in another hemisphere or on the other side of the world.
This combination of external and human conditions is determining our reality of work and should be prioritized no less than gender or disability inclusion. Integrating different age groups has a direct impact on our company's culture—whether it be implemented or ignored. Though the age gap may not be a new challenge, it’s recently expanded and has become one of the most important topics of today’s businesses that rely on diverse ideas and creativity in an age where business models are being redefined constantly.
Spotting this opportunity requires changing a popular trend that’s present throughout many businesses. This can be achieved by modifying two main misconceptions. Firstly, the idea that a person over the age of 50 can’t offer value for the future in a technological era. Secondly, believing a person over 50 is incapable of understanding younger generations’ needs. The latter can be summarized in a recent comment I received from a 28 year old employee: “My boss is a dinosaur. I can’t talk to him. He simply doesn’t understand me.”
Until recently, our focus was set on training collaborators for them to acquire necessary skills. However, our ever-changing world filled with uncertainty and constant shifts has shed light on the importance of integrating our younger population’s vital energy with the temperance that comes with the age of elder employees. The key to success lies in enabling communication methods for each age group to offer their unique value and evolve.
Doing this not only leverages the best of what each group has to offer. If genuinely achieved, we’ll be taking advantage of one of our most important traits as human beings—evolution. What no product or invented machine can achieve. However, if we ignore (or even encourage) the age gap within our businesses, we’ll achieve the opposite effect and begin to believe that as humans, we’re obsolete—like machines.
Achieving generational diversity requires joint effort and a change in mentality. As leaders, we must actively take on this task and should not solely assign it to Human Resources and Talent. We need to reflect beyond our capacity to attract talent. We should be asking ourselves how open we are to attracting and receiving talent, as well as integrating it and learning. In other words, we need to ask ourselves whether we’re ready to evolve together.
By Alejandro Goldstein, partner at OLIVIA global