A game-changing mega trend is quickly altering the workplace as we know it. While technological breakthroughs consistently transform how we work in the 21st century, increased longevity is reshaping the workforce itself. With people living and working longer, more and more employers find themselves managing up to five generations in the workplace on any given day. To unlock future workforce potential, organizations must adopt a new approach. AARP has resources and tools that can help you assess your organization’s current practices and prepare to maximize the longevity opportunity.
Recently, AARP established a collaborative called Living, Learning and Earning Longer to identify and share multigenerational workforce practices. In alliance with the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), we engaged nearly 100 global employers in discussions about the changing workforce, holding regional executive roundtables in North America, Asia, and Europe. In our discussions with executives at companies such as Allianz, Bank of America, China Life Insurance, Cisco to Dell Technologies, Fujikura, Salesforce and Singtel, we found resounding agreement that work and the global workplace are changing at a rapid pace.
Consider that by 2030 the population of individuals ages 65 and older will reach a record of nearly one billion. Because this age group is growing four times faster than the overall global population, people ages 60 and over will soon outnumber children ages five and under. As a consequence, In 2008, US workers ages 65 and older began outnumbering teenagers (16-19) in the workforce for the first time since 1948. Moreover, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts that in coming years annual labor force growth for both 65-to 74-year-olds and even those ages 75-plus will consistently outpace labor force growth for any other age group. With these trends, the multigenerational workforce is here to stay.
The good news is that greater diversity—including age diversity—drives engagement and performance, and that is something organizations have control over. Diversity practices that organizations can implement contribute directly to employee engagement. In fact, American business units in the top quartile of engagement realize 21% higher profitability than those in the bottom quartile.
How can global employers begin adapting their workplace practices to capitalize on increasing longevity? Here are a few high-level takeaways from our global learning journey with executives:
In addition, executives at our roundtables shared that as leaders there are key issues that need to be acknowledged in order to push organizational change forward. For instance, straight talk about the harm of stereotypes across the generations is crucial. Perpetuating misconceived conclusions such as, “She is too young to run the company” or, “He is too old to learn the new technology,” is simply bad for business. Additionally, the intense focus on disruptive technologies and automation blur the fact that organizations will still need uniquely human skills—starting with curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and change management, especially as the more repeatable tasks can be automated. These “5C” skills and capabilities appear in experienced members of the labor market and take time to accrue. However, organizations have yet to appropriate resources and generate policies to help workers of all ages and tenure strengthen their 5C muscles. To develop cross-generational 5C skills, companies could create apprenticeships and reverse-mentoring programs for all ages. Both programs could build institutional knowledge and initiate information exchange among generations.
Although globally we are marching toward healthier, longer lives, this gift is not equally shared. Often, differences in income and inequity drive disparities in life expectancy. Not everyone can work longer, nor do they always want to do so. Health concerns or caring for a loved one full time can end workers’ paid employment. In addition, some jobs are not suited for older works. We must remember these factors when we design our policies and practices.
Over the next two years, the Living, Learning and Earning Longer Collaborative will work with at least 50 global companies to refine the business case for age diversity and highlight best practices from around the world. With WEF and OECD, we will consider the complexity of the multigenerational workforce when evaluating an organization’s recruitment and retention practices, flexible work and caregiving benefits, lifelong learning and training, and assessment procedures. Our findings will surface standards, policies, and practices that reflect an age-diverse and inclusive workforce ecosystem. Finally, at the 2021 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, we will release our conclusions in a digital learning platform.
Join the over 25 companies and knowledge partners that have already signed on to the Living, Learning and Earning Longer Collaborative. We will help you assess your readiness as a company and prepare to maximize the longevity opportunity. For more information, contact Jeff Gullo at firstname.lastname@example.org.