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Going grey can be good for business

By Michael Overell - Jul. 19, 2012
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There is a lot of information out there for mature aged workers, advising them on the best ways to transition out of their corporate roles and how to plan for their coming retirement.

But not all of the mature age workforce wants to or can afford to retire and there are some very good reasons for businesses to attract and retain older employees in their workforce.

Older workers are generally highly skilled and experienced and, with a shrinking national workforce and more businesses struggling to find qualified applicants for their positions, the mature age sector is one that needs to be tapped into.

Mature age workers are not only more experienced than their younger counterparts. They are also generally more flexible, more productive, more loyal, more team-oriented and they take less days off than their Gen X and Gen Y co-workers.

Also, as the population ages, mature age workers will increasingly match the profile of your customer base, so their ability to empathise with them is an added advantage for your business.

It is predicted that workers aged 45 and over will provide up to 85% of workforce growth in the next decade. Business owners will need to focus on this demographic by providing training to maintain relevant skills and ‘up-skill’ to meet the emerging requirements of the workplace.

So, just how do you go about attracting mature age workers and how can you successfully retain those you already have?

Some useful strategies could include:


Mature employees generally have more life commitments revolving around extended family, hobbies, volunteer work, holidays and caring for others. So offering them more flexible working hours is a good way to entice them back into the workforce or encourage them to stay with you longer.

This flexibility can be in the form of part-time work, job sharing, role swapping, working from home and even consultancy work, where the mature employee is able to honour their various outside commitments and still provide a valuable contribution to your business.

The emergence of telecommuting, video conferencing and other advances in communication mean that you can provide mature age workers with the flexibility they want and still be in constant contact.

Bear in mind though that, as with the implementation of any flexible working arrangement, mature age or otherwise, you need to negotiate terms and boundaries, so that productivity and team participation are not compromised and can be effectively measured.


Older workers are generally no longer motivated by ambition, as they have already climbed off the corporate ladder. They are now more often motivated by a desire to share their knowledge with others and your business can benefit greatly from this.

An excellent way to tap into this knowledge is to arrange for a mature age worker to mentor a younger employee. The passing on of wisdom from old to young is a part of every culture around the world and it is equally valuable in the business world.

Mentoring is relatively easy to set up and a cost effective way to train younger employees, but it needs to be based on mutual respect, constructive guidance and a willingness to learn and share.


Contrary to what some might believe, mature age workers are actually very flexible in their outlook and open to learning new things. Many already have a good grasp of current technologies and are willing to learn more.

By providing ongoing training and ‘up-skilling’, you will not only benefit your business, but also appeal to their strong desire for job satisfaction.

Because mature age workers have a vast pool of work and life experience to draw upon, training them is often easier and more cost effective than teaching younger employees from scratch.


To retain mature age workers, they must be made to feel valued and one thing that can detract from this is ageism, which is unfortunately a form of discrimination that still exists in the workplace.

Your business should already have an anti-discrimination policy, which is part of your compliance requirements. Formulating a specific policy that focuses on your company’s attitude to discrimination on the basis of age will make it clear to all workers that this is not something that will be tolerated.

Most ageism goes unreported, so you need to actively monitor your workplace, so you can identify and address any incidents that may arise.

With an ageing population, a shrinking workforce and looming nationwide skill shortages, business needs to start factoring mature age workers into their future plans and formulating effective strategies for their recruitment and retention.

It has been estimated that retaining an existing employee, rather than re-hiring, saves the average business around $2000 a year. So, along with the federal government’s current monetary incentives for businesses who hire and train older workers, there are some sound financial reasons as well for engaging with the mature age workforce.


Michael Overell

Michael Overell is a seasoned entrepreneur and business leader with a proven track record in building companies, products, and teams in both startup and hyper-growth environments. Currently, he serves as a key executive at ClassDojo, where he is responsible for driving revenue growth and helping children around the world access quality education. Michael is also actively involved in investing and providing support to promising foreign founders looking to break into the US market through his work with Antipodes. Prior to his work at ClassDojo, Michael played a pivotal role in scaling Lyft's product organization as the company experienced rapid growth, expanding from 3,000 to 6,000 employees and successfully going public. His expertise in hiring and recruiting was further honed during his time as the co-founder and CEO of RecruitLoop, a company he launched in Sydney before relocating to San Francisco. Under his leadership, RecruitLoop raised funding, developed a globally distributed team, and achieved profitability. The company had a modest exit in 2019 and ultimately closed its operating business. Michael began his career at McKinsey, where he focused on strategy in the tech and telecommunications sectors, with a particular emphasis on next-generation fiber broadband networks. His insights and thought leadership have been featured in prominent publications such as TechCrunch.

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