The Plus and Minus of Employing Older Workers
Business today works in a highly volatile environment, constantly changing with hyper competitiveness, demographic, and economic issues. Remaining productive in this environment means reducing staffing costs and increasing productivity. Engaging your workers so they remain with your business long term and reducing the cost of new hires is one way to counteract rising employment costs.
It has been demonstrated time and time again that those businesses that are most successful are the same businesses that invest in their people. At the same time the retirement age in Australia is increasing, and the demographic of customers, ageing along with the populous. These are all strong indicators for business to continue to engage in older workers.
In just over 30 years time, there will be 2.5 times more people over the age of 65 in Australia but the working population will be only 1.2 times its current size (CEPAR). If you are looking at sustainability of your organisation, you will have no choice but to engage older workers.
Some of the fallacies that surround older workers include that they may not have the energy; drive and pro-activeness of their younger counterparts. The research shows that in many cases older workers do not lag behind their younger counterparts and in some cases are more productive. Certainly as a recruiter I have engaged with brilliant vibrant older workers and lethargic slothful young applicants, so it is all about the person and not the age.
One of the great positives about older workers is their experience. They have often seen it all before and can bring a level of expertise and knowledge to an organisation that a younger worker, no matter how highly educated, can not possess. It is one thing to have the understanding but quite another to understand how that situation works out, in reality. To have seen different approaches to problems, in the real world, what worked and what did not, is an invaluable skill.
This type of experience makes your older worker invaluable in decision making scenarios and even when moving your business into unchartered waters.
One of the aspects that you do have to be aware of with older workers is any health issues that may impact their ability to complete their role. This can be addressed with medical checks related to the role and could be instigated for all ages undertaking certain roles. In this way it is not discriminatory but related to any workers ability to undertake the inherent duties of the role.
Additionally you could introduce some HR programs that target health and wellbeing in the workplace. This could assist all workers, not just older employees and could look at mental health issues; obesity; healthy eating; cardiovascular awareness and diabetes understanding. Simple programs can be designed, need not cost the earth and may save your workers both younger and older in the future!
Other negative stereotypes about older workers include their lack of proficiency with technology. This may or may not be true, it is an individual skill – not generational. When interviewing older workers, have them take a general Computer Literacy test so you can ascertain their levels. Ask them if they use social media, what they use their phone for, besides calls and how much they utilise technology in their day-to-day life. There are plenty of ways for you (or a good recruiter) to ascertain if the individual has the IT skills needed for your role. Do not just make assumptions based on age (proud to say, I constantly teach our young recruiters key board short cuts, but then again they teach me too – it is a wonderful two way street).
Due to the inherent discrimination that is out there for older workers looking for work, smart organisations, looking now, can pick up incredible candidates, often with far greater level skills but keen to continue working. If you start looking now at the older demographic, you can be ahead of the trend, and possibly engage with a brilliant worker who will bring more to your organisation that you ever expected.
Important Note: These articles have been prepared for general circulation and are circulated for general informational purposes only; these articles should not be regarded as business or investment advice. The articles represent the views of the writers and are subject to change without notice. Additionally, while every care has been taken in the preparation of the articles no representation or warranty as to accuracy or completeness of any statement is given. An individual or organisation should, before any business or investment decision is made, consider the appropriateness of the information in this document, and seek professional advice, having regard to objectives, situation and needs. This document is solely for the use of the party to whom it is provided.