30 May 2022 By Victoria Tomlinson
We are at an interesting point in time. Diverse workforces make for better performance. But Best Companies to Work For awards don’t look at diversity as success criteria. If you want evidence on diversity and performance, look at McKinsey’s various reports that have been tracking this over the last decade. The latest is Diversity Wins which states that ‘the business case remains robust and the relationship between diversity on executive teams and the likelihood of financial outperformance has strengthened over time’.
At Next-Up, as we are having discussions with professional firms and employers generally about diversity. It is clear that ‘diversity’ means different things to different organisations. And age is the last pillar for them to add in/address in their workforce diversity and inclusion policies and plans. Initially, diversity was looking to address getting more women (and others) into senior positions. Older, white men dominated these roles so age was not a top issue to address.
What I am finding is that employers recognise that a good workplace should have diversity of age – it just feels right, seems sensible. But when you make age part of your diversity pillar, no-one seems to know quite where to start in terms of what needs doing.
I put this question to Andy Briggs, when my colleague Trevor Hatton and I interviewed him for our podcast, Re-think Retirement. He said, ‘Start with the data’.
This point really came to life as we are working with our first employer who is about to beta test our online platform (for employees coming up to retirement). We chatted about how to message this to his colleagues. John said, “I wonder how many people we have aged 50+?”. They had the information, so it was just a question of dicing the data; they hadn’t seen a need to do this before. He found the findings surprising. His workforce has a fifth of employees aged 50+. His perception was there were probably only a few people.
I am now thinking about the messaging of our platform and which organisations will be most interested. Instinctively I am thinking this will be organisations that care about their employees and feature in Best Companies to Work for award lists. So, I have been looking at the criteria for Best Companies to Work For awards. Interestingly diversity doesn’t get a mention.
The Sunday Times was behind the original Best Companies to Work For awards. They are still a market leader but there are now a plethora of other awards. These are the criteria – and diversity isn’t getting a mention
I guess the bit where I see age being an issue is in ‘maximising human potential’. I first became aware of the problem when PPMA commissioned research from Jobsgopublic. They surveyed two groups of people: a younger generation aged 16 to 24 and an older generation aged 50+. The findings were complete opposites. Most younger employees (75%) said their skills were recognised and valued. Shockingly, only 25% of the older generation could say the same.
So, I went round the houses on this! It makes sense that awards for Best Companies to Work For don’t look at diversity as a specific measure. We can assume there is good diversity if employees feel valued.
My original question was to find how the best organisations measure good diversity policies. I am no further forward on this. I hoped Best Companies to Work For awards would give me some clues – but they don’t give a framework for doing this. My search to find what and how companies should look at age to ensure proper diversity will continue.
Please contact us if you are happy to share insights around ‘age’ in your diversity pillars. We would love to research and discuss this further.
Victoria Tomlinson is chief executive and founder of Next-Up. Next-Up supports employers with a range of services for directors, partners and employees to help them understand the impact of retirement on mental health and create a plan to use their skills and experience in new ways to ensure wellbeing. A key part of our role is to inspire people with ideas and contacts, beyond traditional expectations. A former director of EY, she is an international speaker on unretirement, personal branding and using LinkedIn strategically as well as on leadership and women on boards. She mentors chief executives and directors, start-up businesses and ex-offenders. Victoria is Honorary Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University and chaired an advisory board for University of Leeds.
The biggest hurdle for employers to overcome is not to categorise males 50-60 + as ‘male, pale and stale’ before they get through the door . This obviously applies to females too, although I don’t have the turn of phrase for this! Whatever sex you identify as, this attitude ignores the collective wisdom and experience that goes with mature workers, professional or otherwise. Employers claim ageism is not a factor but I believe it is a hidden bias.