Why Are Older Workers A Leading Asset For Your Business? | CBCC News
With how it gets discussed on the news almost every day, we all know that Australia is currently going through a massive skills shortage.
What you might not know is that there is a quick and easy way to help alleviate this issue: older workers.
In fact, more older people are working than ever. The number of 50 to 64 year olds who are economically active has grown by approximately 129,000 people since mid-2022, and the number of actively earning 65s is up too. In their Ageing in the Workforce 2021 survey, Australian Seniors revealed that many older Australians want to stay at work until at least 70 years old.
However, despite their enthusiasm, the same survey revealed that 9 out of 10 older Australians feel that ageism is still prevalent in the workforce and that 1 in 5 experienced ageism in the workplace. For older workers who want to return to work, they could spend up to 72 weeks job-hunting before they secure employment again.
But why do older people want to keep working? What are the benefits of having older employees? What challenges do they face, and how do you check if your workplace is welcoming to older workers?
The CBCC shares the hard facts about older workers, ageism, and employment below.
“With age comes wisdom. Older workers are usually better at following direction, mentoring, and leading”
– Vivek Wadhwa, Indian-American technology entrepreneur and academic
Reasons Why Older People Choose To Return To Work
Like getting a full-time job, buying a house or a car, or starting a family, retirement is one of those life stages that many people hold as a mark of success. However, as stated above, more and more older Australians actively wish for and are returning to work.
One of the most obvious reasons why an older person would want to ‘unretire’ is to supplement their income and get the most out of their retirement savings. Workers are still able to receive a pension and their super if they satisfy the requirements, which can help many older people who may be facing financial hardship due to the high costs of living right now.
Another common reason is for the physical and mental benefits of being part of a workplace. The physical activity of working and the necessity of leaving their homes can contribute towards maintaining physical health, whilst the companionship of fellow colleagues and meeting new customers and clients they have can keep them socially engaged and confident.
Working can also provide older people with a sense of purpose. The routines needed to maintain a working lifestyle help provide structure in their daily lives, and any upskilling or training required for their chosen jobs can keep their minds active. In fact, an NBN study revealed that 35% of baby boomers have an interest in studying and gaining new skills in a new industry, and 48% of those would consider studying online.
With so many opportunities available for older people, it makes sense that so many would want to return to work or study, either to make extra money or to find personal fulfilment.
Older Workers: Are they worth it?
There might be amazing benefits for older workers, but what about for businesses? What do businesses have to gain from having older employees?
The most significant benefit of having an older worker is the wealth of experience, sheer knowledge, and critical thinking they bring to your business organisation. In some artisan industries, such as jewellers, carpenters, or cheese makers, it takes a decade or more for workers to gain the technical skills needed to do the job well.
And with their experience, older workers can play a critical role in training the next generation of workers, providing advice, insights, and ‘tricks of the trade’ that only time and experience bring.
Older workers are also more likely to have better work ethic. They are often the first to arrive to work, stay focused throughout the day, and take fewer days off, setting a great example to younger workers in the workplace. In fact, studies have shown that mixed-age teams in the workplace are more productive than teams of workers of the same age.
Economically, an extra 3% participation in workers aged over 55 could boost Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) by a whopping $33 billion.
With such benefits, why is there still discrimination in our workplaces against older workers?
Challenges facing older people looking to return to work
Despite having laws in place that are supposed to protect individuals from discrimination based on age, ageism is still very real in the workplace. The 2023 Employing and Retaining Older Workers Survey by the Australian HR Institute and the Australian Human Rights Commission found that 1in 6 organisations will not consider hiring people aged 65+. Only a quarter are open to hiring those aged 65+ ‘to a large extent’. Just over half (56%) of HR professionals say they are open to recruiting people aged 50-64 to a large extent’. 18% say that they would be open to recruiting from the same age group only ‘to a small extent’ or ‘not at all’.
Although there are clear benefits to hiring older workers, some myths about them are hard to shake off. The most common myths are:
- Older workers are lazy and hate to communicate with more junior staff members: this is not true because studies have shown that older workers are more productive in comparison to other age groups, and many are willing to teach and mentor younger colleagues.
- Older workers are just waiting for retirement: many older workers consider working to contribute greatly to their social lives and are eager to continue working to some capacity after they ‘retire’.
- Older workers are hard to teach and are not interested in learning about and keeping up-to-date with technology: to the contrary, many older workers are eager to learn new skills and switch professions as they have already become accomplished in their roles. They are also eager to improve their current abilities and continue growing professionally.
As more of us stay healthier and live longer lives, it will become more and more urgent to reimagine how we manage a workforce that will progressively stay working later into their lives.
Is Your Business Friendly to Older Workers?
But how exactly do we actually make our workplaces more friendly to older workers, especially those who are returning to work?
One of the main elements that attract and retain older staff is flexible hours or flexible working. This will support older workers as they balance other priorities in their lives and help older workers manage their work-life balance more successfully.
Encouraging team building and collaboration is another key element that will help older workers successfully integrate into your workplace. By placing workers with complementary skills together, they can collaborate to deliver results whilst learning from each other and improving together.
Providing skills training to staff will also help attract older workers who want to polish or improve their skills, whilst having the added benefit of keeping current employees up to date with their knowledge and skills. This is especially important for industries and fields where technology or knowledge can become obsolete quickly.
“A society that does not value its older people denies its roots and endangers its future.”
– Nelson Mandela, first President of South Africa
There has never been a better time than now for older people to return to the workforce. Their skills and experience are invaluable and are highly desirable to employers, and more and more businesses are looking for ways to better support older workers.
Want more information on how you can improve your business? Join the conversation today.