New research by OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) highlights that HR must take steps to make the workforce more inclusive as more generations work side-by-side in the workplace. 

A new report by the OECD highlights the importance of creating an age-inclusive workforce, stating that multigenerational workforces and giving opportunities to older employees could raise GDP per capita by almost a fifth (19 per cent) over the next 30 years.

According to research undertaken in the 37 member countries of the OECD, the report found that older workers can enhance their company’s productivity – not only through their own experience but also through age and skill complementarities between younger and older workers.

In addition, it found that by 2050, there will be one person aged over 65 and over for every two people aged between 20 and 64, meaning that there will be a greater amount of older workers by this point. This ratio currently stands at 1 person aged over 65 for every 3 aged 20-64.

It further highlights that there are many business benefits that come with multigenerational workforces. Among these are increased productivity, a stronger talent pipeline, a greater diversity of skills and outlook, better retention of experience and know-how and increased resilience.

However, there is a crucial problem as the research suggests that, broadly, HR and leaders tend to categorise workers by their age or generation and then create policies based on this. The OECD suggests this may be counter-productive as it states that workers of all ages are much more alike in their attitudes to work and tend to value similar things.

In order to promote an age-inclusive workforce, the OECD suggests the following:

  • Focussing on recruitment and retention strategies
  • Improving job quality
  • Maximising training and development

Within recruitment and retention, the OECD state that companies should age-proof the wording and imagery used in job advertisements to attract talent from any and all age groups. It also states that using applications forms as opposed to traditional CVs could help to challenge unconscious bias. Phased retirement programmes could additionally be an effective method to retain older workers as it allows these workers to work for their employers in a different capacity rather than immediately transitioning to full-time retirement.

To maintain a multigenerational workforce, the OECD advise implementing flexible working options and supporting the well-being of all employees, especially by doing this through early intervention.

Finally, maximising a multigenerational workforce will come in the form of focussing on lifelong learning and training – especially for older workers who may have been out of formal education for longer. In any case, the OECD state that this upskilling should be directly linked to enhancing their career prospects.

Stefano Scarpetta, Director of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs at the OECD, said:

Many employers are struggling to establish effective policies that continue to support workers’ living, learning and earning at older ages. Part of this inaction is fuelled by widespread misconceptions about the strengths and capabilities that different generations bring to the workplace.

Workplace policies and practises cannot be implemented in isolation for specific groups at specific times in their careers – it is not about targeting one age group at the perceived expense of another. Employers will only succeed if they develop initiatives in the context of nurturing an age-diverse workplace and taking a life-cycle perspective with supportive public policies and good social dialogue. Doing so will benefit all of us as well as future generations in terms of greater prosperity and well-being.

*This research was taken from the OECD’s report ‘Promoting an age-inclusive workforce: Living, Learning and Earning Longer’.