Study shows: Age-diverse companies are more attractive employers.

A study published in the Journal of Business Ethics shows that both organisational age diversity and age diversity management practices strengthen an organisation’s attractiveness and lessen the applicants’ expectation of age discrimination. However, the study finds two different groups of people with distinct reactions to age diversity (practices).

The latest study by Rabl & del Carmen Triana adds new evidence to the body of studies on age diversity. Beneath the general positive effects of age diversity and age-related D&I measures on organisational attractiveness and expected age discrimination, the findings indicate that applicants who (already) think positively about age diversity are attracted by organisations which either show high age diversity or age diversity management measures (or both). Conversely, applicants with negative attitudes toward age diversity are only (more) attracted by companies that show consistency, i.e. to those who have both age-related D&I practices and truly existing age diversity. This is consistent with other studies that found that employees become cynical towards their company if they believe that diversity promises are not fulfilled.

This has major implications for organisations.  To become more attractive to divers applicants, companies have to ensure that their Diversity programmes are well-designed and embedded into the firm-specific context und culture; these are basic conditions for D&I success and as a consequence for business benefits. It is neither enough to only have existing diversity, i.e. a heterogenous workforce, without a well-grounded Diversity Management, nor to have a variety of zero-impact D&I practices.

The authors examined the interactive effects of three independent variables, (1) an organisation’s age diversity, (2) an organization’s age diversity management practices, and (3) potential applicants’ individual attitudes toward age diversity on two outcome variables, (A) organisational attractiveness and (B) expected age discrimination. Their sample consisted of 244 German employees who were likely to be in the job market again during their careers.

The study’s findings are very important with regard to ongoing demographic changes. In the 27 EU member states, for example, the workforce participation rate is projected to be 57 % for the 55–64 age group in 2020. In Germany’s population, for instance, the 50–64 age group will increase by 24% by the year 2020, while the number of people younger than 50 years will decrease by 16%. Older employees and their skills and potentials become an ever more valuable resource for business as working lives become longer. Hence, organisations urgently have to deal pro-actively with questions of how to organise the growing age diversity and how to attract older employees with their unique knowledge and experience.

The research results suggest that promoting age diversity and introducing age diversity management practices may help companies to manage these challenges and furthermore to benefit from the advantages of a diverse workforce.