Harnessing the Power of Age Diversity in Our Workplaces

Matching wise eyes to fresh eyes through Mutual Mentorships.

By Kaleena Murray | Chief Culture Officer

Chip Conley, Author and Founder of Modern Elder Academy, talked to the power of age diversity and fostering an intergenerational pipeline in our workplaces. 

He shared his own story about how at age 26, he took an inner-city motel and turned it into the 2nd largest boutique hotel brand in America.  In 2013, he accepted a position at Airbnb to help transform their start-up into what’s now a thriving worldwide hospitality brand we all know and use.  He shared his experience of one of those early meetings at Airbnb, sitting with “a buncha millennials” and feeling like they were speaking a different language. 

With 5 generations in the workplace, our organizations are looking more like independent countries on the same continent.  People are living longer, working longer, and so we are seeing a broad range of generations working alongside one another than ever before. 

Chip shared some interesting facts: our fastest-growing age demographic is actually age 60+, and almost 50% of the labor force growth in the next 10 years will come from workers in this age bracket.  Simultaneously, power in the form of leadership roles is moving faster than ever to our younger generations. And while 75% of our Millennials want a mentor, only about 2% actually have them. 

“Knowledge is plenty, but wisdom is scarce.”  

Chip Conley

He introduced us to the term “Modern Elder.” For some of you who just read that for the first time, the word ‘elder’ might conjure thoughts and feelings with negative connotations.  Maybe you’re picturing what you think an elder is.  Our culture often stereotypes age on both ends of the spectrum, fueling assumptions and discounting our individual experiences.  He talked about reclaiming the word “elder,” gaining back power and re-framing our outlook on age and experience. 

Our Modern Elders are as curious as they are wise and maintain a growth mindset in their life and work. It’s this balanced combination that has the power to connect our multi-generational organizations through Mutual Mentorships. 

“Instead of judgmental, I got curious,”

Chip Conley

We all have something to learn, to gain, to strengthen…and with more age diversity than ever, we have an invaluable opportunity to invite more people in to connect with one another, actively cultivate wisdom, and add value. 

This all crushed the traditional mold of mentorships, broadening my own perspective on how to cultivate, deepen, and maximize what we already have in our organizations.  Consider, for example, new hire buddies or brief tutorials between employees that foster exchange of EQ [Emotional Intelligence] for DQ [Digital Intelligence] and vice versa. 

We have the resources…it’s just about tapping into them.