The Evolution Of Work

83% of Global Executives Agree Multigenerational Workforce is Key to Growth and Success

Thousands of employers share workforce insights during pandemic

Survey on global executives’ thinking about the rapidly-aging workforce conducted by AARP. Access full report here.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Today, AARP released a new survey revealing global executives’ thinking about the rapidly-aging workforce. Among the findings: 83% of global business leaders recognize that multigenerational workforces are key to growth and long-term success of their companies.

Conducted in the fall of 2019 and the spring of 2020, the study surveyed nearly 6,000 employers in 36 countries. More than 70% of survey data were collected during the pandemic, a time when millions of older workers in the U.S. and elsewhere are unemployed, furloughed or facing uncertainty in their careers.

Earning & Learning Over A Lifetime

“As people live longer, healthier lives, they’re also working longer – a long-term trend that presents a great opportunity for employers and people of all ages to reimagine what it means to earn and learn over a lifetime,” said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. “Research shows that age-diverse workforces have a positive effect on employee engagement, productivity and the bottom line. It is heartening to see that business leaders around the world recognize this value, even as we’ve been concerned the pandemic could fuel ageism.”

  • The survey found that over half (53%) of the employers surveyed do not yet include age as a factor in their company’s diversity and inclusion policies. However:
  • 70% favor taking steps to promote unbiased recruitment practices,
  • Three in four (74%) would provide training and lifelong learning opportunities for older employees,
  • Two in three (68%) would purposefully design mixed-aged teams to leverage the advantages that both younger and older employees bring to the table, and
  • Over half (54%) are providing more flexible work arrangements, including teleworking.

The survey is a continuation of the work of the Living, Learning, and Earning Longer Collaborative Initiative, a partnership between AARP, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the World Economic Forum. The Initiative was launched in 2019 to identify, share, and promote inclusive multigenerational workplace practices from around the world.

This survey was fielded to 5,998 employers across 36 OECD nations over two waves of data collection and represents only the responses of those employers surveyed. The first wave of data was collected from 1,760 employers in October and November of 2019. The second wave of data came from 4,238 employers in April and May of 2020. Each survey was completed by an upper-level human resources employee or executive.

Global Executives Know A Multigenerational Workforce Is Key To Business Growth And Success

The best way to service an age-diverse market is with an age-diverse workforce. Consumers ages 50-plus are fueling a multi-trillion-dollar longevity economy, yet discrimination exists in both the market and the workforce. Age discrimination against those ages 50-plus cost the United States economy $850 billion in 2018.

The OECD calculates that giving workers, especially older workers, the best opportunities to work (i.e., by eliminating such factors as age discrimination) would raise gross domestic product (GDP) per capita across the OECD by 19 percent over the next 30 years, showing the value of full labor force participation on both workers and the economy.

Not only do multigenerational workforces make sense from a business perspective, they also make sense from a human resources standpoint. Seven out of 10 workers in the United States enjoy working with people from other generations. Older workers appreciate the creativity of younger workers and younger workers appreciate the value of older workers’ experience and wisdom.

Greater Diversity Supports Higher Innovation Revenue And Profit Margins

Companies with above-average diversity in age, gender, nationality, career path, industry background, and education on their management teams report innovation revenue that is 19 percentage higher and profit margins that are 9 percentage higher than companies with below-average diversity

Yet the AARP survey of employers in 36 OECD countries shows that there is extensive work to be done to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion policies and practices in the workforce. More than half of global companies lack critical diversity components within their diversity and inclusion policies. For instance, 53 percent of global executives surveyed do not include age in a diversity and inclusion policy. Further, almost 60 percent do not include gender, 63 percent do not include race or ethnicity, and over 70 percent do not include sexual orientation.

As people live longer, healthier lives, they're also working longer – a long-term trend that presents a great opportunity for employers and people of all ages to reimagine what it means to earn and learn over a lifetime...

As a result, companies may have broad diversity and inclusion or D&I strategies without explicit acknowledgement of the domains that they cover. Of those businesses who do not include age in their D&I strategy, 48 percent indicate that other dimensions of diversity are more important than age and 33 percent believe that age is not important to address.

Keep Progress Perpetual

While there has been progress in regard to workplace policies on diversity, equity, and inclusion, clearly more needs to be done to align systems to better respond to the demographics at large. More than ever, employers—whether from the private, public or non-profit sectors—understand the importance of diversity and inclusion, to their bottom lines.

Meanwhile, the very understanding of what diversity and inclusion encompasses has continued to evolve, as it must. As part of that evolution, age must be included in diversity and inclusion policies, programs, and philosophies. While an increasing number of organizations understand that, this understanding must become universal.

Given longevity trends, aging is the single unifying factor across all of the diversity characteristics and will intersect with the others. If age is left unaddressed in diversity and inclusion policies, employers will be ill prepared for the multigenerational future of work that has already begun to surface with four to five generations working side by side.

Bridging The Gap In Creating Multigenerational Workforces

While global employers recognize the value in a multigenerational workforce, most are not yet prepared to provide managers the critical information or training that fosters a positive environment in which a multigenerational workforce can thrive. Nearly four in five (78 percent) organizations reported that they currently have a multigenerational workforce. Yet simply having such a workforce is not enough to maximize the benefit for either employer or employee.

Just 42 percent of these global employers provided managers with training or support related to how to manage a multigenerational workforce, with only 39 percent zeroing in on how to avoid age discrimination in recruitment or hiring, and 38 percent focusing on how to avoid age discrimination in access to training opportunities.

Only an intentional approach to creating an inclusive corporate culture, establishing policies and practices that resonate regardless of age and life stage, and cultivating people within the organization to see age diversity as an asset and competitive advantage will align systems to harness the potential for purpose of the bottom-line. There are millions of workers across the globe working in a multigenerational environment managed by someone without the training to maximize these teams.

Employer Policies Must Foster Multigenerational Workforces

Despite widespread recognition of the value of multigenerational workforces, age discriminatory policies remain. These policies sabotage the creation of an age-diverse workforce and any benefits an employer might reap as a result. In fact, only 6 percent of employers surveyed already had policies related to unbiased recruiting processes. One especially harmful policy is mandatory retirement.

Nearly 4 in 10 global companies dictate a mandatory retirement age. The government/public administration sector is most likely to have such policies, followed closely by energy/telecommunications/utilities, science/technology/engineering, and manufacturing. Employers have an important role to play in ensuring policies support workers of all ages and life stages.

By eliminating age-discriminatory policies and replacing them with policies that ensure access to the necessary skill-building and other work supports, employers can foster multigenerational workforces whose members remain employable over a lifetime. To that end, employers are eager and willing to learn more about tools for assessing the degree to which their organization currently meets the needs of a multigenerational workforce (73%) and creating peer networks to share best practices related to the multigenerational workforce (73%)

About AARP
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation’s largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.