Age diversity is increasing with employees working past the typical retirement age of 55. With this increase in diversity come managerial challenges to overcome such as discrimination among workers and group cohesion. There are policies and practices managers can follow in order to keep the workforce fair and productive, not only in terms of age discrimination but of discrimination against any minority group in an organization. Introduction As medical advances continue to improve longevity and vitality among older employees, today’s workforce diversity is growing.
Laws against age discrimination and elimination of benefits paired with improved health are increasing the number of people who work past the traditional retirement age of 55 years old. With the increase in older workers come misconceptions about their abilities to perform tasks, learn new skills and adapt to new approaches. Even though these misconceptions have been disproven by empirical evidence, they still exist leading to age discrimination in the workplace.
What changes in employment relationships are likely to occur as the population ages? As the population ages, changes in employment relationships are bound to occur. With age discrimination being an issue in some companies, older workers who are higher paid and have expensive benefit packages could be laid off in order to cut costs. On the other hand, having tenured employees with a wealth of experience and knowledge, work with younger employees with knowledge of newer techniques, can potentially yield a powerful team effort.
Also, employers may offer more flexible schedules in order to accommodate for their aging employees as well as provide more training in order to keep them current on new technologies and practices. Do you think increasing age diversity will create new challenges for managers? In my opinion I do believe the increase will create new challenges for managers. One challenge I foresee, and the most profound, is controlling age discrimination among employees. This issue is double sided. Younger employees entering the workforce have to deal with being viewed as
inexperienced whereas older workers deal with the stereotype that their ability to perform tasks decline with age, as wells being unable to adapt. As discussed in chapter 2 of Organizational Behavior1, the stereotypes of older workers have been empirically disproven. Inversely, who is to say a young profession will be any less effective at a position if he or she has the knowledge and drive to learn and perform the task? Managers will also have the challenge of cultivating group cohesion with the increased age range.
They will need to carefully organize employees into groups that will be productive and efficient. For that age may not be a factor but personality type and work ethic will. Workers at different ages in different life-stages may be diverse on the surface, but looking deeper may reveal similar core characteristics that would make for good partnerships and group dynamics and managers will need to get to know their employees to learn said characteristics. What types of policies might lead to charges of age discrimination, and how can they be changed?
Some company policies or practices may lead to charges of age discrimination. In the recruitment process employers should not ask for an applicant’s age in order to keep the interviewers focused on the applicant’s qualifications rather than how old they are. Many companies already have strict human resource and recruitment policies to achieve this. Termination of older employees, an issue previously mentioned, can also lead to charges of age discrimination. Some companies turn to older employees that are higher paid and have expensive benefit packages when it comes to layoffs.
Another possible situation for charges of age discrimination is for companies to withhold reasonable accommodations for their aging employees such as ergonomic work spaces. Slight changes or additions to work stations such as foot rests and or wrist rests can help. The most effective way to change these issues is to maintain policies that promote decisions based on productivity and performance as opposed to any biographical characteristic, keeping the workforce fair.
Regular training for managers about the importance of diversity, its benefits and how to achieve it will help to eliminate age discrimination issues. What other challenges do organizations often encounter while trying to build a diverse workforce and what actions can be taken to overcome these challenges? Age discrimination is not the only challenge organizations face when trying to create a diverse workforce. Workers with biographical characteristics other than age such as sex, race and ethnicity, disability, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity are all targets of discrimination in organizations.
When it comes down to it, there is no significant difference in job productivity between men and women yet there are predominantly more men in upper management roles. Women do however have higher absence and turnover rates most likely due to a family dynamic in which mothers are typically considered the primary caregivers to children and if faced with a sick child at home, will be the one to take time off to tend to them. Even that is changing with more and more couples splitting parental roles. In order to achieve the diversity desired some organizations provide leadership development programs.
These programs are open to everyone but managers can really encourage women and minorities to partake in order to increase diversity in upper-level management. What are some important benefits of having a diverse workforce? There are many benefits of having a diverse workforce. It increases creativity. With people of different backgrounds comes variety. People will look at similar situations in very different ways. This could lead to quick problem solving, and innovative ideas. It can also improve company-client relations.
Customers may identify with a woman over a man, or someone of a similar religion or ethnicity. With a diverse workplace there are many different people the customer could potentially identify with. In some cases diversity could open up new markets all together. For example a couple of 30 year old males decided to start a t-shirt line. The line does well and they want to expand into shirts for women as well. It could be beneficial to increase their diversity and hire a woman to give input on fit and style and also help them market it to the female market.
Diversity can make it easier for employers to find recruits as well by including all applicants with relevant experience. It can also lead to less complaints and litigation from discrimination because with organizations with a high level of diversity, minorities are less likely to feel as such. Conclusion As mentioned, there is increasing age diversity in the workplace. The combination of health science and laws prohibiting age discrimination and elimination of pension plans, are leading to older workers to continue to work past the traditional retirement age of 55.
The discrimination against older workers is unfounded and poses new challenges for managers to overcome. Managers now need to find ways to prevent discrimination among employees and promote cohesive working environments in order to maintain productivity. Policies and strategies to help managers with these challenges should be adopted and practiced regularly. The challenge goes beyond age discrimination but with other biological characteristics as well.
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