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Age and tenure diversity on the work floor: Evidence from a natural field experiment in production

Kirsten Thommes (Department of Management, Paderborn University, Paderborn, Germany)
Janny Klabuhn (Department of Management and Economics, Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus–Senftenberg, Cottbus, Germany)

Evidence-based HRM

ISSN: 2049-3983

Article publication date: 10 December 2019

Issue publication date: 10 February 2021




Past research on how to compose a team is ambiguous, especially with respect to diversity dimensions. The authors argue that previous inconsistencies in results have arisen for two main reasons. First, there is a lack of clarity about the concept of age diversity, as age separation, age variety and age disparity are frequently used synonymously, but capture very different aspects of diversity. Second, in many research settings, age and tenure diversity have been intertwined. When staffing teams, many staff managers ask for staffing advise concerning staff diversity in order to enhance efficiency. This staffing problem is mainly a question how homogeneous and heterogeneous teams should be composed. In this paper, the authors capture both – age and tenure diversity – as well as their interaction and argue that age separation and tenure variety are most likely to affect team performance in a routine task. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


The authors are testing the hypothesis using rich quantitative field data from a steel company.


The results show that age separation decreases performance while tenure variety increases performance. Moreover, the beneficial effects of tenure variety cannot arise when age separation is too large.

Research limitations/implications

The authors show that diversity research is very sensitive to the operationalization of diversity.

Practical implications

Managers can benefit from the study by learning how to optimally staff teams: while age diversity should be low, tenure diversity can be high.


Due to the unique data set, the authors can separate the influence of tenure and age diversity.



Thommes, K. and Klabuhn, J. (2021), "Age and tenure diversity on the work floor: Evidence from a natural field experiment in production", Evidence-based HRM, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 95-117.



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