Age diversity is becoming increasingly important in the workplace thanks to demographic change. Mixed-age teams, also known as intergenerational teams, deliberately employ the particular strengths of young and old employees. Complex tasks, in particular, make the advantages of such teams evident.
However, mixed-age teams are not a matter of course: in order for their added value to be tapped and for diversity to be seen as an advantage, we need unprejudiced, fair, and supportive leadership, health promoting work conditions, and an appreciation of all employees. Several conditions must be met for cross generational teams to work effectively (1):
There are more and more experienced employees, while the number of younger workers is dwindling. That used to be different. The changing age distribution in the workplace is bringing the generations closer together – and demanding a new concept of cooperation.
Numerous studies have come to the conclusion that a larger range of ages means more productivity (2). A mixture of generations and roles can be very beneficial for the workplace. Thanks to the variety of knowledge, experience, and abilities that results from the combination of younger and older employees, mixed-age teams have numerous advantages. Loyalty, flexibility, patience, resilience, persistence, innovation – are all part of the package. Altogether, that’s a huge gain.
Experience comes with age. And it allows us to see things with composure. We are familiar with lots of different solutions and can rely on our judgement. We can now reliably gauge whether something is doable and know how to confidently deal with conflicts. An awareness of quality and a sense of responsibility are important to us; we are good at reaching a consensus. We are the pillar of strength.
Nothing’s impossible. We face challenges fearlessly and without the restraints of traditional structures and procedures. We grew up with today’s technology and can quickly process and apply new information. That means we can solve problems in no time flat. And we’re physically fit. World, we’re on our way.
Young and old recognise problems earlier, come up with solutions quicker, and find it easier to make complex decisions when they work together. In addition, they are more likely to discover new ideas together. An age mix also has an impact on how well members of the team feel: once prejudice has been eliminated, employees are happier in their jobs and more motivated. As long as the boss is able to pay attention to everybody’s needs.
Wegge et al. (2012). What makes age-diverse teams effective? Results from a six-year research program. Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment & Rehabilitation, 41, pp. 5145-5151.
Backes-Gellner, u. & Veen, S. (2013). Positive effects of ageing and age diversity in innovative companies – large-scale empirical evidence on company productivity. Human Resource Management Journal, 23(3), 279-295.
Göbel, Christian und Thomas Zwick (2010). Which Personnel Measures are Effektive in Increasing Productivity of Old Workers?, ZEW Discussion Paper No.10-069, Mannheim.