The benefits of an intergenerational workforce

Many businesses are blinded by the need to recruit a ‘millennial workforce’ to create a successful business but what does this mean for the baby boomers?

Technology is innovating every day and while products built for the younger generation should consider their opinion, it is important to not get side-lined. The older generation offer something that the younger generation can’t and it’s time that more business leaders recognise what a person with decades experience and wisdom can bring to a company. So how can businesses benefit from workers in their twilight years?

Face to face communication

The rise of social media has caused a drastic decline in social interaction with more people than ever choosing to engage with others online, rather than face to face. The implications of this on the workforce are far reaching. Our reliance on phones and short form text to communicate has limited the development of our social skills, most importantly creating warmth and rapport, which has led to people becoming siloed and increasingly lonely. 

One way to stop this is by introducing older workers into the younger workforce, to teach and share their communication skills. Having worked in businesses before they were dominated by email, texts and social media, older workers can understand and read a situation differently to their younger counterparts. Pairing the generations together can create sound conclusions that will address everyone’s needs.

Network and connections

No matter your product or your service, connections and networks create a successful business and by hiring a workforce of different ages, you’ll be exposed to a variety of different people that’ll help build and guide your company. When building a team, of course you are all working towards one goal, but hiring different people will ensure that you have a well-rounded approach. At Howz we are developing technology with a focus on a simple, easy to use interface. The team each took prototypes home to test and review with their families. Our younger group very quickly identified the limitations of the system, but our older employees identified accessibility problems and assumptions we make regarding the use of icons. Together this enabled us to find a middle ground that has proved successful in customer trials.

Read: Age discrimination - alive and well in 2018?

Good work ethic

Work ethic has been cited as one of the big differences between young and old. Hiring older generations into the workforce will give businesses a competitive advantage as their workforce will have a stronger morale and sense of loyalty.

Additionally, they can provide great advice for younger generations on how to develop their careers long term. A combination of approaches brings real benefit to business with a more flexible approach the younger generation can accommodate different working hours and fluctuating patterns which can be a challenge for those with time restricting home commitments. In our experience age is not correlated with the enthusiasm or energy people bring to work!

Life skills

For a small business there are a whole host of tasks and decisions that keep the business running on a day to day basis. In a large corporate environment, it’s easy to lose track of the detail required to ensure everything is up to date and operating efficiently. For a younger generation who are now living with their parents for much longer they often lack the experience of arranging insurance, utilities, or accommodation upkeep. The older generation can bring real insight to these tasks and tackle them with confidence which is invaluable for a business. This life experience also brings value when dealing with customer queries as there is more empathy and understanding of the situation if you have experienced it for yourself. 

Empowering the elderly

The most important element in all of this, however, is facilitating the older generations’ desire to contribute to the modern workforce. A total of 3.6 million older people live on their own, with 1.9 million of them feeling ignored or invisible; businesses have a responsibility to help combat this loneliness epidemic and reduce the feelings of worthlessness. Employment creates a sense of comradery among all workers, no matter their age directly combatting the feeling of loneliness. Responsibility or feeling needed can have a significant impact on wellbeing and mood. Many older people write themselves off because of the fear that they’re underqualified but creating an environment that inspires older people to learn a new skill will give them the determination to thrive, keep their brains active and add significant value to the business.

Howz was created to empower older people, to give back their freedom and feel in control of their daily routine. When creating the product, we took advantage of our 40 years combined expertise in the NHS and in business from our own careers, young developers and the advice of older generations to make sure that the product was suitable and had well rounded insight. We reached out to relatives to test the product and make sure that their opinion guided its development.

Businesses should take advantage of the wisdom, work ethic and different perspective that different generations can share with the young to grow their workforce to create a successful business filled with different ideas.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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