As our population continues to grow, we will see more mature age people in our community and workplaces. Australians are ageing and so our labour pool is shrinking.
Modern and forward thinking employers understand the importance and benefits of recruiting and retaining older workers to a diminishing labour pool. The benefits for business include:
- high retention rates - workers aged over 55 are 5 times less likely to change jobs than workers aged 20-24
- flexibility - older workers can often be flexible in relation to part-time work or other flexible work arrangements, when needed
- workplace mentoring - older workers can be excellent workplace mentors or coaches
- experience - older workers typically have a broad base of transferable knowledge and skills. Their contribution to a workplace can be well beyond the bounds of their role.
- low risk - the risk of a poor appointment is reduced with older workers because work history and performance background can be checked.
If workers are discriminated against or stereotyped on the basis of their age, they are experiencing age discrimination. You can combat this by:
- offering training, skill development and promotion opportunities equally to all workers
- offering flexible work life balance opportunities equally to all workers
- ensuring workers are aware of workplace behaviours that could be perceived as harassment, discrimination or victimisation on the grounds of age
- giving attention to the specific health and wellbeing needs of workers as they get older
- removing age-related factors in recruitment procedures
- having policies and practices that promote and support age diversity
- training managers in age-friendly employment practices
- considering full-time, part-time and casual job share arrangements when filling new positions.
An age-friendly workplace will attract mature age applicants. The kinds of facilities and support services older workers value include:
- recognising and accommodating carer responsibilities
- working from home
- worker autonomy
- flexible shifts and hours
- leave without pay, seasonal leave
- flexible leave and salary arrangements, such as trading salary for additional leave
- phased retirement and salary sacrifice options.
Recruitment and interviewing
When advertising for a role, use age inclusive language and focus on the requirements of the position. Avoid youth oriented references such as fast paced or high energy, and images that aren’t demographically diverse.
Don’t set unnecessary standards for experience, personal qualities or qualifications. Make it clear you welcome older applicants, by replacing the terms ‘senior’ or ‘mature person’ with ‘experienced’ or ‘able to work unsupervised’.
When interviewing applicants:
- train interviewers to recognise the value of age diversity
- use people of different ages on the selection panel
- prepare questions that focus on life skills and experience, not age
- communicate the specific advantages for older workers of working for your organisation.
Losing experienced workers to retirement can disadvantage your organisation. You incur the costs of recruiting and training new workers, and your business and clients lose valuable knowledge and expertise. You can improve retention of mature age workers by:
- addressing age discrimination through developing and promoting an anti-prejudice policy that is accompanied by training for supervisors
- restructuring work practices to include flexible work options such as job sharing, part-time and casual work, telecommuting and phased retirement, and ensuring your managers and supervisors know how to consider requests fairly
- developing a mentoring program in which older workers pass on their knowledge and expertise to less experienced workers
- not making assumptions about when older workers may be retiring.
Resources available to support mature age participation in the workforce include:
- Department of Jobs and Small Business provides Restart financial incentives to encourage businesses to hire and retain mature age workers who are 50 years of age and over.
- Work Ready provides assistance and support with finding work.
- Seniors Information Service provides links and resources for mature age unemployed seeking to enter or re-enter the workforce.
- DOME (Don’t Overlook Mature Expertise) offers employment and training services to mature-age unemployed and disadvantaged people in South Australia.
- Equal Opportunity Commission of South Australia contains tools to help prevent discrimination and harassment in your business including a free e-learning training package on age diversity in the workplace.
- The Australian Government’s jobactive employment services system helps job seekers prepare for and find work.
- The Australian Government’s Department of Human Services provides information on services, programs and financial assistance when looking for work.