Valuing Australia’s Older Workers

4 tips to help your business not only survive, but thrive!

“Mature aged workers are critical to Australia’s economic success. Gaining the full benefit of this valuable resource will require innovative approaches by business, community and government sectors “

 – Peter Hendy 

A change of attitude

Are you encouraging older workers to retire early? Loath to hire anyone over 45? The reduction in the numbers of young people entering the workforce now and in the future means that to survive, all businesses are going to have to be more open minded and flexible about the age spread of their workforce. Will you, your managers or your recruitment people have to revise your attitude towards older workers?


Do a stocktake (and find out what you have – and what you might need)

Do you understand the strengths and gaps in your existing workforce? A simple stocktake of skills should provide the answers. Depending on the size of the business, a stocktake can be as simple as a chat with an employee at regular intervals. What skills do they have that you might not know about? Do they think that extra training would increase their value to the company? Do they want to move up the ladder? By plotting the skills and the aspirations of the workforce, employers can see potential problems and opportunities before they are forced on them. Planning can help employers fill gaps using existing staff, design training programs more effectively and encourage and reward good employees with incentives or promotion.


A balance of youth and experience makes the best team

Sporting teams strive for a mix of experienced and younger players for all the obvious reasons. The team as a whole benefits. It’s no different in business. Older employees are revitalised by working with younger people. Younger employees will soon pick up on ‘hands on’ tricks of the trade from older employees. The business gets the best of both worlds. It’s a good reason why businesses should re-examine their staffing practices and look at their staff as a team – does their team have a good balance of youth and experience? There’s a lot to consider.


Before encouraging an older employee to retire early, employers should think long and hard about the possible long term ramifications. The shrinking supply of new workers in the future is just one. How easy will it be to replace the experienced person? How long will it take to get the new employee up to speed? What are the costs? Will the replacement need extensive training? How long are they likely to stay?


Different strokes for different folks

Recruiting or retraining workers over 45 will help stabilise any workforce. Older employees tend to stay longer, are loyal and more consistent in their work output. Their experience also provides a bonus of business common sense born out of that experience. Employers may have to consider more flexible working conditions for older employees. Days off or fewer hours each day may be far more important than extra money. They may have responsibilities to family or community and may not be prepared to work full time. Part time may be the answer (assuming that awards provide for flexible work arrangements). Flexible working arrangements can be beneficial to both the worker and the employer.


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