If there is one lesson I've learned as an entrepreneur, it's that age doesn't correspond to common stereotypes.
We reside in a business environment that often champions "young" as innovative, and "old" as mature--while assuming that young talent can't be seasoned, and that older individuals can't be on the leading edge.
I'm a 28-year-old CEO of my own high-growth company, and I've personally experienced these limiting mindsets more times than I can count. Some of the most forward-thinking, savvy people at my company are well past twenty-something, while many of the most mature are younger than you'd expect.
It's something every entrepreneur--regardless of age--will encounter in-house. But you'll also find it among board members, investors, partners, and even customers.
In reality, having a balance of ages across your business can have a dynamic benefit in many areas, including the bottom line. However, it takes a bit more strategic work than hiring a few gray hairs or youthful faces. You've got to set the dynamic of how your company views age, and how it intends to draw and encourage value from a blended age group.
I began with eliminating the common stereotypes from my mind. Not only did this set the mentality and mindset in my own role as a leader, but it also created the same in every other role at my company.
1. Older employees refuse or resist change
A common mistake many entrepreneurs make is to assume that older people are resistant to evolving. In some instances, this could be true. But I've found that when it occurs, it's often a leadership and communication issue that has left the team member unsure of what to expect, or feel safe in their role.
Be sure to communicate what changes you want to make, why, and what impact might be expected--including with regard to team roles. Evolution is easier for everyone when transparency is involved.
2. Younger people are more technology savvy
It's amazing to me that it is still assumed that younger people understand technology better than older people. Certainly, this can also be true sometimes.
But today, so many people of all ages use technology or are readily able/willing to adapt to it. Some of the topmost social media executives are well in their mid-thirties.
Just the same, plenty of young people may not be familiar with technologies your business uses. Just keep an open mind.
3. Older people don't work as much due to family
It's often thought that younger talent is without spouses or children, and therefore has more time to commit to work than older talent.
Yet, in reality, everybody in your company deserves to (and should) have time outside of the company to live their lives. People--of all ages - that aren't given this often burn out, show signs of stress and duress, and make mistakes at their jobs.
Set a realistic idea of what you feel your company needs to succeed, and give all employees room for life outside of work.
4. Younger people are lazy and entitled
Laziness and entitlement aren't just assumptions made about Millennials, but every generation before them as well. Again, this can be accurate for some young people. However, by no means does it apply to all.
Plenty of employees in their 30s and older lack motivation and ambition at companies. Watch for cues while interviewing talent of all ages to circumvent these problems.
5. Old and young people can't mesh together
The generation gap can be a real divide you'll need to bridge as an entrepreneur. But, believe me, it's worth it when you see how well it can work when you've done it.
Certainly, there will be differences between team members who vary in age. These differences can be fun, exciting, and leave positive, lasting impressions and ideas on everyone involved if you encourage it.
There's nothing better than seeing your older employees shepherd and inspire your younger ones, and vice versa.
A large segment of the population is working later into life, with many putting off retirement due to the job market. It's driving an increasing attention on ageism across multiple industries and markets.
But age misconceptions and myths can mislead your business, where you can lose the opportunity and benefits of an age diverse company. Start with eliminating what you think you know about age, and work a blended group to your business and competitive advantage.