Age diversification in forestry
The forest industry is well aware of the importance of diversity when it comes to forest management through the general understanding of the importance of having a diversity of trees, species, and habitat types. However, when it comes to diversity in the workplace, this has been an evolving conversation in our sector. While there has been great strides in creating a more inclusive environment for women and individuals from many different backgrounds and ethnicities, it seems that age diversity or age diversification is often missed or forgotten about in this conversation.
In particular, this can be witnessed during the hiring process when employers focus on filling the position with the best, most qualified person. While this seems logical and will meet the need in the short-term, it does not support age diversification in the workplace.
Age diversification can result in many benefits. One of the upfront benefits are reducing employee turnover while creating a stable workplace. It provides the opportunity for experienced employees to teach and impart wisdom on younger generations while helping the younger generations gain experience, become well trained and more knowledgeable employee. Often having a diverse age structure will lead to what is referred to as positive spillover effects. Spillover from older workers is a wonderful way to save on formal training costs and mentorship between different age brackets can ultimately lead to stronger company culture.
Age diversification can lead to a variety of skill sets and perspectives. Undoubtedly the older employees will have extensive knowledge on a subject. We see this a lot in forestry. Forests are complex ecosystems that develop and transition over time. Not all changes are seen in one season. Some lessons in forestry are not learned until 5 years later when you see the impact of a choice made on a forest stand. Older employees will have a stronger grasp on the changes they see in forest dynamics. They will be able to identify mistakes before they are made because maybe they made those mistakes before.
Younger employees, on the other hand, may have a tighter grasp on technology. They may have a better understanding of new innovation and how it can be applied to the job. Younger employees are often up to date on current science and research. All the qualities and knowledge older and younger workers have to offer will drive innovation and foster creative, forward-thinking ideas. There are studies that suggest that age diversity increases productivity and are more innovative.
How do we create an inclusive, age diverse work environment? This is a question I can only provide thoughtful suggestions for as I am no expert. Companies, organizations, or groups could evaluate their successional planning to ensure that the knowledge that their older employees have get passed down to younger employees. They can ensure that their younger employees are engaged and encourage to bring new ideas to the table. Even evaluating internal processes and benefits may be a good way to attract younger employees. Older employees may be more interested in RRSP contributions while younger generations may be more interested in health and wellness benefits - including insurance for their pets.
Just like a forest, age diversity is beneficial to the health of the ecosystem making it resilient and allows for the forest to succeed over time. Companies that embrace all ages are more likely to succeed.
Article written by Megan Finlay & Sarah Todgham