Reflecting on a recent trip to Southern Europe, I was blown away by the quality of the food and the wine. I then realised that what made the experience so much more special and enhanced the enjoyment of the cuisine, was the amazing customer service. Unlike dining on the Mooloolaba Esplanade however, this amazing customer service was provided by predominantly mature aged workers. They were welcoming, engaging, entertaining and rarely was there a mistake on the order, despite the language differences.
This got me thinking that many business owners and managers really don’t understand the value of mature aged workers in our workplaces. Older workers tend to be thought of as not being up to date with technology, set in their ways and not adaptable or unable to fit in with younger workers. In fact, many recruitment companies do not refer anyone over the age of 45 to employers for available jobs at all.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), nearly 40% of the workforce in Australia is currently over 40 years old. The Intergenerational report projects life expectancy to increase to 95.1 years for men and 96.6 years for women by 2054-55. It also predicts that the number of people aged over 65 in the workforce will increase by 60% during that time. With an ageing population, extended retirement age and people being generally fitter and healthier for longer, we need to get better at utilising a valuable resource that is right there in front of us: one that could have significant positive impacts on our business.
Increasing employment of older workers overall by just 7% now, would have a major positive impact on the broader economy, raising GDP in 2022 by around $25 billion. More and more companies are cashing in on the productivity, revenue and profitability gains employing older workers brings.
Bunnings has long had a policy of hiring mature aged workers and they believe that more experienced team members: are an integral part of creating a business that engenders trust and confidence for their customers; provide fantastic learning and mentoring opportunities; benefit the company through the wisdom and character that life experience brings; and have some great experience and can often inspire customers. Australia Post also employs many older workers with nearly 60 percent of their workforce aged 45 and over. Both companies believe hiring older employees is a win for customers, a win for younger team members and a win for the mature age worker.
In addition to companies like Bunnings and Australia Post actively recruiting older workers, there is broad consensus across industry, government, unions and the community sector on the many economic and other benefits to hiring mature workers. Reports from the Australian Industry Group, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, CCIQ, Australian Council of Trade Unions, Business Council of Australia and others identify a range of benefits for businesses that employing older workers generates including: viewing business operations from a different perspective; helping to improve business processes; fill skills or knowledge gaps in the workplace; and provide mentoring to and sharing skills with less experienced employees. There is also evidence that employing mature aged workers can lead to cost savings due to lower rates of absenteeism and less training. They can also make your business more productive.
So how do you find dependable, steady mature aged workers who are dedicated to the job at hand and take pride in their work, and, will cost less to hire, train and maintain?
A good recruitment firm that knows the value of mature aged people will help you match the right person to meet your workforce needs and can facilitate and coordinate a range of wage subsidies and incentive payments that are available.
You can also recruit through organisations that directly assist mature aged people to get back into the workforce. For example, the Maroochydore Chamber of Commerce’s Inspiring Women to Work delivers a range of services to help women over the age of 35 to improve their technology skills, health and well-being, self-confidence and networking skills. This project also links participants with inspiring local women from business, sport, media, the arts and local government to act as mentors to inspire them to succeed, connect them to job and work experience opportunities and provide them with personal support.
We are all going to be older workers at some point. It’s therefore in all our interests to make sure that, as employers, we seriously consider mature aged candidates for available jobs, harness their skills and experience and reap the economic and other rewards that having a diverse workplace generates.