Trinity College Dublin: Business experts seek European SMEs interested in diversifying company age structure

Experts from Trinity Business School are seeking European SMEs whose leaders are interested in diversifying the age structure of their companies with a view to boosting creativity and innovation.

The engagement is driven by a Horizon 2020-funded research project, Diversity Innovation Support Scheme for SMEs (DINNOS), which aims to address the challenges of age heterogeneous team composition by developing an innovation support programme and evaluating it with a sample of 300 European SMEs.

The innovation support programme consists of a leadership training programme for the founders or managers of the SMEs and a cognitive training programme for older employees. The results of the DINNOS project will help SMEs in Germany and the UK to improve their innovation processes.

Wladislaw Rivkin, Associate Professor in Trinity Business School, is leading the project. He said:

“The term ‘demographic time bomb’ describes one of the most important challenges of the modern work era. It refers to the demographic changes in the population structure of most industrialised countries caused by falling birth rates and simultaneously rising life expectancy. Organisations are also affected by these changes, which is reflected in the fact that an age-heterogeneous composition of teams has become the norm.

“According to the latest research in this area, age diversity is seen as a double-edged sword with an impact on organisational effectiveness and innovation. On the one hand, age diversity can provoke emotional conflicts between individual team members and thus negatively influence the effectiveness of the team. On the other hand, age diversity can contribute to the development of new ideas and innovations by integrating different perspectives and knowledge levels within the team.

“These positive and negative effects of age diversity are influenced by the framework conditions within the organisation, such as leadership, team climate or the cognitive abilities of individual team members. Especially for SMEs, whose success is strongly based on innovation, it is necessary to promote those framework conditions that maximise the positive effects of age diversity.”

Ekaterina Voznesenskaia, who works with consulting and service-processing multinational, Accenture, said:

“The leadership course has been highly beneficial for me, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in this programme. The course structure was very well thought, comprehensive, and each topic was connected to each other in that way that you start seeing the holistic picture and understand how you can leverage the servant leadership skills in real-life situations at work. I have found it especially beneficial for me to learn how I can apply servant leadership skills to basic psychological needs of my team.

“The topic of feedback was incredibly beneficial, and I also discussed it with my team in 1/1 meetings. I feel that the leadership course has helped me grow personally and professionally. I have become more understanding and empathetic, showing more respect and more value to my team. They are showing more respect to me, in their turn.”