Companies are adaptable, creative and profitable despite the age of their workforce. At least this is what a growing body of research is showing. So why do we have HR policies and practices that, however unintentionally, work to de-grey our workplaces? What are the impacts of our unconscious biases and ill-conceived stereotypes of older people on innovation and service delivery? Ultimately, what is the impact on the customer experience?
An Enormous Missed Opportunity
As author and activist, Ashton Applewhite, affirms,
“we live in a culture that tells us that getting older means shuffling off stage”.
Nowhere is this culture more pronounced, and damaging, than in the workplace. We’ve all heard stories of older customers (and workers) being treated less than favourably on the basis of their age or perceived age.
Baby boomers represent a vast, unprecedented, untapped market. In fact, they represent a quarter of the Australian population. And according to the Property Council of Australia (2015), almost 80% of baby boomers own their home, representing an enormous financial resource. Yet, this generation is often either ignored or neglected when it comes to customer experience. Engaging all staff to improve the customer experience of older customers is crucial to realising the potential of this market. To do this, organisations must create:
- An organisational culture and workforce of engaged employees committed to stopping ageism in its tracks.
- An environment that seeks opportunity amongst older customers by encouraging the development of new products and services and/or modifying existing offerings.
Why De-grey the workforce?
Already, McKinsey has revealed the bottom line benefits to companies offering an exceptional customer experience. The gross margins of these companies can exceed those of their competitors by more than 26 per cent. However, the recent Deloitte report Missing Out reveals the missed opportunity of capitalising on a diverse workforce – including older workers – to improve the experience diverse customers have with an organisation. For example, the report found that less than half (41%) of customers surveyed believe that organisations treat customers respectfully, regardless of their personal characteristics.
What’s Your Organisation’s Pulse?
Given the current and future size of the ageing population and workforce, it’s essential companies examine the attitudes and beliefs of their employees towards older people. Through an Ageing Attitudes Pulse Check, companies not only get a snapshot of the current mood of the workplace when it comes to older people, they potentially have access to deep insights into how this could be affecting the quality of service delivery and levels of innovation among workers – both young and old.
The pulse check can provide companies with the opportunity to:
- Enhance the awareness of unconscious biases and stereotypes held about older customers and workers.
- Educate their workforce on the value, diversity and capabilities of older customers and older workers.
- Explore options, through market research, to re-design or co-create products, services and business processes that are age friendly.
- Examine the role of older workers for enhancing the experience of older customers.
For a Hollywood example of how older workers can improve the customer experience of older customers. Take a look at this short scene from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel of Judi Dench training younger call centre staff.
If you’d like to know more about how an Ageing Attitudes Pulse Check will benefit your company, contact us.