2013: The Year of the Mature Worker

By Guest blogger - Feb. 18, 2013
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Mature age workersEditors Note:
This is a guest post written by Heidi Holmes, Managing Director of Adage.com.au – Australia’s leading job board for mature age workers. Her opinions are her own.

Up until now, mature workers have not really been on the agenda for many employers, not only because of negative perceptions, but more so from a lack of leadership.

Australia’s Ageing Population

Over the past few years there has been no shortage of research or commentary on the implications of Australia’s ageing population and workforce. According to current predictions as cited by the Financial Services Council by 2050 there will only be 2.7 working Australians for every person over 65. To put this into context, in the 1970’s this ratio was 7.5. Successive editions of Treasury’s Intergenerational Reports have consistently acknowledged the need for our labour force participation rate to increase, particularly with regard to workers over the age of 50.

There is no denying that negative perceptions and stereotypes portraying ‘older workers’ as difficult, slow, expensive and not tech savvy have had an impact on the hiring intentions of employers and recruiters.

Despite research and case studies finding that mature workers actually offer in many cases a better return on investment for business, mature workers face an uphill battle in the recruitment process.

As the workforce ages, employee retention and knowledge management are becoming increasingly important for both the private and the public sectors. A recent survey of more than 1000 employers by the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) found that nearly half of them reported that the departure of older workers from their workplace in the last year had resulted in a loss of key knowledge and skills.

Still, it appears many are doing little to resolve it, with AIM’s ‘Skills Gap’ report finding that just 3% of organisations with a skills shortage are providing mentoring or coaching roles for retired or long-standing employees to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and skills to less experienced employees.

Make your workplace mature-age-worker friendly

If you are keen to make your organisation mature-age-worker friendly, but not exactly sure how to go about it, here are some tips to help you and your HR team get started, both in recruiting and retaining talented and experienced older employees.

  • Review job advertisements to ensure age-friendly content;
  • Avoid words such as dynamic, fast-paced, young;
  • Advertise where older people are more likely to see it, such as specialist job boards targeting mature workers;
  • Ensure hiring managers are educated on the benefits of hiring mature workers, removing any unconscious bias that may exist;
  • Formally acknowledge mature workers in your diversity policy.
  • Review your organisation’s workforce age profile; and
  • Implement an intergenerational mentor program between employees.

Creating Champions

This is not to say employers aren’t hiring mature age workers – many are, however it is often with little fanfare. Others may be aware of the value of this asset, but need assistance in deploying it.

That is why the Federal Government has recently committed to providing funding for employers to sign up to the revised Corporate Champions project.

The objective of the program is to build workplaces that value the experience of older Australians and increase the recruitment of mature age job seekers. This is to be achieved through the provision of advice and support to help individual employers realise the value of a diverse, flexible and loyal workforce. DEEWR

The Corporate Champions project represents a fantastic opportunity for employers to gain access to a professional assessment of their current workforce demographics and recruitment and retention practices leading to the development of a strategic action plan.

The Government funded consultation will also include assistance with developing strategies to address any areas for improvement as identified in the initial review. This could include updating recruitment processes, rolling out flexible working arrangements and implementing mentoring programs to improve retention.

The over-arching challenge lies in not only further educating employers on the benefits of hiring mature workers, but also creating a broader culture where employers actually aspire to being an ‘age-friendly’ employer, along the lines of what has been achieved with regard to gender and employers wanting to be an ‘employer of choice’ for women.

Through the Corporate Champions initiative, it is envisaged that more employers will see the benefits of recruiting mature workers whose skills, experience and diversity enhance workplaces and increase productivity.

In partnership with Sageco, Adage is thrilled to announce that we have been successful as a provider for the expansion of the Corporate Champions program for 2013 – 2016.

If you’d like to find out more about the program or to register your interest in becoming a Corporate Champion, contact Adage today.

Heidi Holmes is the managing director of Adage.com.au a mature age job search site and online community for jobseekers aged 45-plus. If you would like to find out more about the benefits of mature workers please contact Heidi directly at Heidi@adage.com.au.


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