A topic making headlines regularly these days is the mature worker in the workplace and in December 2011 AHRI conducted a survey into mature worker participation. The survey results were generated by over 1200 respondents. The survey uncovered some interesting information which included the following…..
“The findings reveal a mixed bag of data that includes half the sample of 1212 AHRI members reporting that the departure of older workers has caused loss of key knowledge and skills over the past year, and eight out of ten saying they would like to see steps taken to retain older workers. At the same time more than a third of respondents believe their organisation is biased against the employment of older workers” reference Peter Wilson AHRI President.
The survey results show that the impact of the departure of older workers from the workplace has resulted in the loss of key knowledge or skills, and in some cases has caused the organisation to be less competitive. More than three quarters of respondents report retaining older workers as a necessary precaution against the sudden loss of essential knowledge and skills. However, while more than two-thirds of respondents believe the retention of older workers would benefit productivity, 26 per cent believe it would have no impact on productivity.
Given limited choices, respondents would prefer their organisation to source recruits from unemployed older workers (49 per cent), skilled immigrants (26 per cent), unemployed youth (13 per cent), unemployed Australians with a disability (7 per cent) and unemployed Australians from indigenous backgrounds (7 per cent). Nearly half of respondents believe their organisation would be disposed to support government initiatives to recruit a greater proportion of older workers. And yet nearly two-thirds of respondents oppose the idea of the government raising the retirement age to retain greater numbers of older workers.
More than eight out of ten respondents (83 per cent) would like to see steps taken within their organisation to retain older workers. Approximately one-third of respondents believe their organisation is biased to some extent against the employment of older workers. Only a little more than a third of respondents report being certain that negative perceptions in their workplace about older workers have no influence on recruitment decisions. Nearly two-thirds of respondents report their organisation does not distinguish between older and younger workers when deciding who to keep on the payroll.
The survey results highlight that in a tight labour market, the pool of candidates available to businesses when recruiting could be broadened to include more mature age workers who could bring substantial knowledge and experience to the table. The positive to come out of the survey was certainly that 83% of respondents wanted to see steps taken within their organisations to retain mature workers.
The finding comes as the Federal Government’s Jobs Bonuses scheme for mature aged workers is set to rollout from July 1. The scheme promises $1,000 to employers who provide a worker aged 50 or over with a job for at least three months.
The annual Australia’s Skills Gap survey, conducted by the Australian Institute of Management (AIM), conducted a survey of the workplace practices of more than 1,500 Australian organisations. It found that 77% of organisations have a gap in their workforce skills, yet few of these organisations are trying to fill the gap by utilising the experience of mature aged workers to mentor younger members of staff. Statistics from the report included just 3% of organisations with a skills gap use mature ages workers in mentoring or coaching roles; 21% of surveyed organisations had programs in place to access the skill sets of retirees or former long-term workers; of those organisations that have avoided a skills gap, the most nominated reason was ‘a strong commitment to training and development’; for those organisations with a skills gap, ‘training and development’ was named as the number one solution to fix the problem.
The skills most lacking in Australian organisations from the results in the survey were:
- Process and project management skills
- Technical and industry specific skills
- Communication/interpersonal skills
Overlooking older and experienced staff to fill a skills gap is a ‘blindspot’, according to Susan Heron, CEO, AIM. “There’s a huge upside for our nation’s skills hungry employers if they can better tap into the experience and capabilities of older Australians,” Heron said. “When you consider the many millions of dollars that Australian organisations have collectively invested over the years in developing the skills of mature aged people, it’s clear they should be seeking a greater return on their investment.”
“Mature aged Australians, whether they’re in the workforce or have retired in recent years, have a wealth of knowledge and job ‘know-how’ that can provide savvy employers with a competitive edge. Older Australians have also spent their whole careers developing a network of personal business contacts that can be used to advantage by an employer”. Heron added that “the skills crisis isn’t going anywhere and will be a long-term reality for Australian organisations because of the nation’s resources boom and ageing workforce”.
Its not a topic that is going to go away. With Australia’s ageing population we will see great numbers of mature aged workers available and wanting to remain in the workforce and employers having this pool of candidates at their fingertips...
The concerns employers have tend to be around the mature aged worker requiring training, their lacking in confidence around training requirements and the possibility of ill health. On the plus the benefits of mature aged worker include them being reliable and loyal, having diverse skills and a great work ethic. Also employers can take advantage of flexible working arrangements to meet peak workload demands.
What is the practice at your company? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic
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