The Age of the Sage in the Workplace.
In 2019, 57% of Americans in their early 60s were still working. This number was just 46% in 2000. Improved health and shifting industry patterns—more jobs in offices, fewer in factories—played a significant role.
So did sheer financial necessity. The housing bust and stock market collapse left many without enough retirement savings. Virtually all of the growth in the labor force between the end of the Great Recession and the start of the pandemic a decade later came from workers 55 and older.
Of course, the pandemic upset the apple cart, and many older people left the workforce. Some have come back, but in certain industries, there's a desperate need to attract older workers. I recently read a UK Financial Times article that said the two industries with the youngest workforces were hospitality and IT, with no more than one in five employees older than 50. I wasn't surprised by IT, but my much-loved hospitality business stunned me.
We know diversity is valuable at work as it brings different perspectives while allowing your customer to be included at the table. In my early days as the "modern elder" at Airbnb, the Product team was talking about winding down many software application tools for desktops and just offering them on mobile. This thinking was brewing at the same time that our fastest-growing demographic of new Airbnb hosts was those 50 and older who don't love working on their phones as much as their laptops. When 25-year-olds make products for 50-year-olds (and vice versa), having age diversity on your team is critical.
How does your company measure diversity for race/ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation? Is it time to start measuring diversity for age as well?
And, if you are calculating the lifetime value of your customers, are you also calculating the lifetime value of your employees, especially if they're going to stay much longer than you expected?