Age Diversity and the value of human experience...

It is sad that age diversity seems to be lost in the (brilliant) dialogue and action surrounding other forms of diversity. Age is something that connects us all, its linear and no matter where we are on that line, we’ll never stay there for long. Which makes the discrimination faced by older workers difficult to truly understand.

In the US, 40% of employees have a boss who is younger than them, and yet the average age of the population is getting older.

With the digitisation of planet Earth, modern technical skills (presently) are at a premium – although there is a clear argument that AI will reduce these skills requirements in future. And it’s the inherently human skills such as emotional intelligence, self-awareness, empathy, high-touch customer contact that will become more relevant.


The question I am posing my clients is, ‘how can you combine the digital native skills of youth, with the wisdom, experience and understanding of the human condition of the older employee?’.

I listened to a great TED talk this morning by a guy called Chip Conley who was bought into Airbnb as an experienced hospitality thought leader. And he faced this very problem; he had to find a way to add value by combining the experience he had of managing people and understanding their motivations, getting things done, customer service, with a tech business full of young coders, programmers and data analysts. There was a language barrier, he didn’t speak ‘tech’ and initially felt out of his depth, but by being open and curious he learned this is a two-way thing; there is so much to be shared and learnt from one another.

The assumptions we all make about other generations, especially now that there are 5 generations in the workplace for the first time, are based on misunderstanding of the values and skills each have.

We automatically assume that older generations aren’t current, don’t have modern skills, and are therefore irrelevant. But actually, they have decades of human experience, of dealing with people, human to human, and wisdom driven by life experience.

With all forms of diversity, we know that inclusion drives innovation, fights against groupthink, and that innovation drives performance.

I think the way to keep all generations relevant is to maintain a sense of curiosity and learning throughout our working lives and fighting against making assumptions based on outdated stereotypes. We can do this by inter-generational working, mutual mentoring and skills sharing.


Adam Tobias (Partner)

Inventum Consulting & Inventum Search, Co-Founder of Wells Tobias Group

Tel: 020 3008 4335