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A meta-analysis of the relationships of age and tenure with innovation-related behaviour

Authors


Correspondence should be addressed to Thomas W. H. Ng, Faculty of Business and Economics, The University of Hong Kong, Room 726, KKL Building, Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong (e-mail: tng@business.hku.hk).

Abstract

One particularly persistent and prevalent negative age stereotype is that older workers are less innovative and more resistant to change. Because older workers are also more likely to have longer organizational tenure, negative age stereotypes contribute to the perception that long-tenured workers are less innovative and more resistant to change, too. Guided by human capital theory, this study argues that the capacity to contribute to innovation-related behaviours (IRB) might actually grow with age and tenure, counteracting the presumed age-related declines in this type of job performance. Using a meta-analysis that included 98 empirical studies, the present research examines the relationships of age and organizational tenure with the generation, dissemination, and implementation of new ideas. Overall, the pattern of results in the study suggests that older workers and longer-tenured workers do not engage in less innovation-related behaviour than their younger and more junior counterparts. In addition, there is little evidence of curvilinearity in the relationships of age and tenure with IRB; workers at the high end of the age and tenure distributions did not perform especially poorly on these tasks.

Practitioner points

  • Contrary to common belief, the results of this study show that age and tenure are not negatively related to innovation-related behaviours.
  • That is, older and longer-tenured workers do not engage in less innovation-related behaviour than younger, more junior workers.
  • These results hold true even at the high end of the age and years-of-service continuum.
  • This study concludes that the negative stereotype that older and longer-tenured workers are less innovative is not based on accumulated empirical evidence.
  • As such, excluding older workers from innovation-related tasks is counterproductive.

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