Inspire Success

Providing hints, tips and ideas that help you maintain high performing workplaces that are customer focussed and free of conflict

The Grey Workforce

Rae Phillips - Tuesday, June 19, 2012

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:

  • Leadership
  • Process and project management skills
  • Technical and industry specific skills
  • Communication/interpersonal skills
  • Managerial

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


Is this something that could be an issue at your place? Inspire Success is all about implementing practical solutions that help create high performing workplaces which are customer focussed and free of conflict - no matter what size your business is. Contact Inspire Success for further information or 1300 620 100.


Working across generations

Rae Phillips - Monday, October 19, 2009

Over the last few years I have had MANY discussions with employers and their staff about challenges working with the “young people of today”. (Now for those of you reading who are those young people – don’t worry I will not be ranting on as you expect!)

In fact there were so many discussions and so much passion in the discussion that it became obvious that I had to learn more about the so called Generation Y, or Millenials or Echo Boomers. How interesting that journey has been and continues to be!

Lets set the scene, I have a business owner, a department head, a team leader, all making negative comments about their GenY employees. The sort of things I heard included they were impatient, lazy, want to be nurtured (constant feedback, immediate recognition) at work, demand workplace flexibility. They are unresponsive to motivational tactics, are motivated not only by money, but also fun and their social life, they are easily bored, have no job or brand loyalty, they focus on their life rather than work (work to live).

They are slack in their appearance, from a workforce perspective: they are difficult to attract, harder to manage and are proving near impossible to retain. They are image conscious, wont automatically give respect, are materialist and demand the rationale behind any request of them (Gen WHY).

So have you ever thought about why they are this way? What about this as an idea:

They have no job or company loyalty because they watched their parents work for years for an employer, working long hours, giving up family time, only to be made redundant in the down turn in the 1990’s.

They are not only motivated by money, but also fun and their social life, because they have been told by their parents (people like you and me) to get out and have a good time – don’t spend all your time at work, get some balance!

They are impatient because their parents always worked hard to give them things that we didn’t get. We didn’t want them to wait to save, they learned about credit cards. We have microwave ovens (that seem to take forever!) and digital cameras that don’t have film that needs to be taken completely or need to go to be developed.

They want constant recognition at work because they are used to it at home. How good am I? – ‘you are fabulous darling!’

There is so much discussed about the negatives, but not a lot of us taking responsibility for the wonders we have created.

But what about the other side? There are some positive aspects of this generation that need to be highlighted, to decrease these generational barriers and create a more cohesive workforce with more satisfied employers and employees. And there are plenty of positives about these individuals.

Furthermore, times are changing. Generation Y is here to stay and will be a major part of the Australian workforce. And they can be beneficial to any organisation, bringing youthful idealism and energy, a fresh view to the industry, new qualifications and a 21st century perspective to life. So really, it is time for us Baby Boomers and Gen X’s to change our paradigm and get over it!

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