Lois Bowers headshot

As senior living organizations work to become more diverse, a new survey shares encouraging news about multigenerational workforces and anti-ageism efforts among various types of employers around the world. But work remains.

The Living, Learning, and Earning Longer Collaborative Initiative, a partnership between the AARP, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Economic Forum, surveyed a total of 5,998 employers across 36 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries between October and November 2019 and April and May 2020. Results were released Wednesday.

Good news is that, among several possible dimensions included in the survey, age was the one employers most often said is included in their organizations’ workforce diversity and inclusion strategies. It was cited by 47% of respondents, compared with 41% for gender, 37% for race/ethnicity, 36% for disability, 30% for gender identity, 29% for sexual orientation, 28% for religion and 17% for veteran status. So work still remains on the inclusivity front.

Still, 42% of respondents said it is “very important” to include age in a company’s diversity and inclusion strategy, and 45% said it is “somewhat important.”

But that still means that 53% of organizations do not include age in their organization’s workforce diversity and inclusion strategy, and 13% don’t believe it is important to do so. For those participants whose companies don’t include age as a dimension, 48% said that other dimensions of diversity are more important than age, and 33% said that age is not important to address.

But — more good news — 83% of global business leaders said they recognize that multigenerational workforces — including older workers — are key to growth and the long-term success of their companies.

“Research shows that age-diverse workforces have a positive effect on employee engagement, productivity and the bottom line,” AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins said in a statement, adding that it was “heartening” to see the response.

Jenkins said as people live and work longer, older adults represent “a great opportunity” for employers. And many of the surveyed employers seem to realize that.

For instance, 74% said they would provide training and lifelong learning opportunities for older employees if educated on how to do so, and 73% said they would seek to offer benefits that appeal to employees throughout their careers. Also, 68% said they would purposefully design mixed-aged teams to leverage the advantages that both younger and older employees bring, and 67% said they would institute mentoring or reverse mentoring programs. And 54% said they are providing more flexible work arrangements, including teleworking, to appear to a multigenerational workforce.

Some of these ideas are reflected in the nine action steps the researchers suggest for employers to take to strengthen age diversity and inclusion in the workplace:

  1. Add age to the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion policy.
  2. Craft an age diverse and inclusive talent strategy that develops all employees’ critical digital and cognitive capabilities, social and emotional skills, and adaptability and resilience.
  3. Provide opportunities for workers to remain and grow on the job.
  4. Invest in lifelong education and training to ensure that workers remain employable.
  5. Enforce policies to combat age discrimination, and adopt age-inclusive practices.
  6. Ensure that recruitment practices are inclusive and that hiring processes are “age-blind.”
  7. Be aware of unconscious biases, and disrupt stereotypes across the continuum of age.
  8. Ensure that diversity training for managers and staff addresses issues related to ageism.
  9. Assess workplace policies, practices and protocols to ensure that they are meaningful to employees regardless of their age or life stage.