Guest blogger: Dr Katrina Pritchard, Senior Lecturer in Organisational Studies at The Open University Business School. Dr Pritchard will be facilitating our forthcoming Business Perspectives masterclass in London in February.
Hardly a day goes by without the UK press highlighting issues associated with the changing age demographics of the UK population. My Open University colleague, Rebecca Whiting and I, are never short of materials to comment on in our daily blogs about Age at Work. For example, recently we have considered the announcement of ‘older worker champions’ at UK Job Centre’s to help the over-50’s develop ‘digital skills’, asking if this might perpetuate a stereotype of the older worker as less-IT proficient.
Despite having been on the media radar for the last few years, the challenges of age diversity at work are however poorly understood. Academic research has traditionally treated age as just a number. However ‘age’ is a significantly more complex than a chronological marker or membership of an alphabetically denoted generational category might suggest. For example, it is it is recognised that chronological age is at best a proxy measure (rather than a causal variable) for issues influencing work-related outcomes.
Moreover despite many consultancy-led reports highlighting challenges, there are few fora for managers to share practical experiences. Employers need to consider their legal obligations (avoiding age discrimination, for example), understand the potential implications of an age diverse workforce and also to consider how age-related stereotypes might present challenges to the achievement of organisational goals. Age related issues are often presented as a competition, between older and younger generations. Characteristics which are ascribed to generations are said to cause tensions at work, tensions which managers and leaders in age-diverse organisations need to address.
In this respect our Business Perspectives event provides a great opportunity to explore issues related to age diversity with insights from senior figures in the legal, automotive and health sectors. We are also delighted to welcome Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD, whose mission is ‘Championing better work and working lives’. Alongside academic perspectives, our sessions will explore issues related to both younger and older working lives providing the much need opportunity to share insights and practical experiences with organisations for which age diversity is critical business issue.