Workforce Diversity Already a Strong Part of Company Culture Promoted by AARP
When AIS’ chief operating officer, Steve Savage, was approached by the regional office of AARP about taking the employer pledge to facilitate an age-inclusive workforce a few months ago, it was a no-brainer.
“AIS has long-recognized the value of a diverse workforce, our teams come from more than 30 countries, speak many languages, and have diverse skill sets with experience working in a large variety of industries,” stated Savage. “Add experience to any one of those and it’s a winning combination.”
The AARP Pledge is an initiative by the organization that encourages employers to show that they are committed to an age-diverse workforce. The pledge sites many advantages of hiring experienced workers including productivity and innovation helping to dispel some myths about an older workforce. In fact, AIS has been an inclusive workplace since its inception more than 32 years ago.
AIS President Nick Haritos believes in the power of diversity. “We are proud to have embraced an inclusive culture and I can tell you that it works. Whether someone is just starting out in their career, are well into their workplace experience, or now act as a mentor to younger workers, they all bring valuable knowledge and perspectives. I believe we build a better product because of that diversity.”
According to a survey of CEOs, the top five most valuable skills in the workplace are: problem solving, adaptability, leadership, creativity and innovation, and emotional intelligence. In the age of automation, and with the fast pace at which companies operate and industries change, these employee assets have become even more important. These skills take time to cultivate and develop, so when an experienced worker brings them to the job, the company benefits. With a workforce of more than 800, 40 percent of whom are over the age of 50, AIS has benefitted from these well-developed skill sets.
According to AIS’ vice president of human resources, Deanna Zarella, “Over my career, I have seen how well a team comprised of a variety of ages can work together. Experienced workers bring a great deal of stability and maturity to the workplace and can offer perspective and clarity to workplace challenges.”
Teams comprised of diverse ages are also more likely to have increased performance and productivity. Research also shows that workgroups with age diversity tend to make better business decisions than those without age diversity. “In a way, it’s a bit like investing in stocks, but in this case, we’re investing in human capital. In both cases, my advice is to diversify because, in the long run, you’re going to have a better outcome,” stated Zarella.
The AARP pledge webpage sites several reasons for the trend toward more experienced workers. One is simple, we are living and working longer. With population growth expected to slow considerably, the number of older workers aged 65+ is expected to increase by 51 percent and those 75+ by 105 percent. Additionally, workers aged 50+ have almost half the turnover rate of those aged 49 and under, saving countless hours of recruitment efforts and training along with the associated financial costs of replacing workers.
As for Savage, his production team working in the company’s factory reflects that diversity. “In some cases, there may be a 50-year age difference between coworkers but when you’re working towards the same goal, it’s amazing how the years disappear. My team works hard, they’re committed to the job and to each other, and that works for all of us.”
Known for its strong team culture, AIS’ commitment to age-inclusivity comes straight from the top. Haritos is clear, “Given the current workplace challenges, including a shortage of workers, it makes even more sense to tap into this valuable worker pool. AIS has recognized the advantages of having a diverse workforce for a long time now. Our culture welcomes everyone who has a spirit of collaboration and a desire to learn and grow. We remain steadfast in our commitment to a level playing field with our recruiting and hiring practices. And this will remain the case no matter the number of job seekers in the market.”