18 May 2016

Why you shouldn’t be too quick letting go of your older workers

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You’re in your thirties, climbing the career ladder and achieving goal after goal. Life is great and your life prospects have never seemed so promising.

Then BOOM! You become 45 and you’re suddenly an old worker.

Perhaps your employer won’t give you the same opportunities anymore. You’re no longer worth investing in because you’ll soon retire anyway. You’re also not one of the young and hip guys anymore, and so you therefore must be totally out of touch with technology. It doesn’t matter how savvy you might be, if you don’t look it you obviously can’t be.

Or perhaps you’re having a physically heavy job, which eventually will wear your body out. And perhaps your employer thinks it’s better to let you go or become a contractor, to eliminate the risk of having to pay work cover claims if an accident should occur.

But we will all become old (yes, you too!), and perhaps it’s not until then that we’ll really consider age discrimination an issue.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics definition of a “mature worker” is anyone over the age of 45. According to the Willing to Work inquiry, commissioned by the Australian Human Rights Commission, a whopping 27% of Australians at the age of 50 or over claim to have experienced age discrimination in the workplace in the past two years. Most commonly was when looking for a job. Thirty-three percent of those even gave up on their hunt for work as a result.

It may not come as a surprise then that mature-age unemployment is on the rise in Australia. Just in the year ending in January 2015, the amount of unemployed Australians aged 55 and over has increased with 12.5%.

While you may not think that this is of concern to you. Perhaps your company only employs the young and hip people and to be honest, you just can’t deal with those old fossils who can’t keep with the latest ios version. But did you know that since the baby boomers are about to exit the workforce, the amount of people aged 65 and over is estimated to more than double by 2054-55, according to the Intergenerational Report. This will put enormous pressure on Australia’s economy, as more taxpayer money will go toward pensions and health services.

But if there was a 5% lift in paid employment among workers aged 55 and over, that would result in an extra $48 billion in GDP, according the Deloitte Access Economics’ research.

While this is obviously beneficial for Australia’s economy, the Willing to Work inquiry also found that employers would benefit from supporting, retaining and hiring older workers. According to the inquiry, the benefits include a larger talent pool, increased productivity, improved job satisfaction and customer engagement, higher rates of retention of talent and avoiding costs associated with complaints of discrimination.

So perhaps it’s time that we start changing our perception of older workers and start valuing them for their competencies and experiences, rather than judging them for their wrinkles. We need to change our ways both culturally and in the workforce, and every little step counts.

Let’s make Australia’s economy stronger and our businesses better and more productive through our older workers. Let’s make sure we’re using all our resource, including older workers, to our best advantage.

Attend Akolade’s upcoming 2nd National Ageing Workforce Forum to find out more on how you can benefit and get the most out of your older workers. 

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