What Do You Think of Older Workers?

Author: Harrison HR | Blog

Do you discriminate (intentionally or not) against older people when recruiting and promoting?

Research by the Human Rights Commission shows that age discrimination is ongoing and is a common occurrence in Australian workplaces. 27% of Australians aged 50 years and over said that they had experienced some form of age discrimination.

The survey also found age discrimination had different impacts on women compared to men. Women were more likely than men to report that the most recent episode of discrimination they had experienced affected their self-esteem, mental health or caused them stress and that it had a negative impact on their family, career or finances. Older women were also more likely than older men to be perceived as having outdated skills, being too slow to learn new things or as someone who would deliver an unsatisfactory job.

The number of Australians aged 65 and over is projected to more than double by 2055, when there will be around 40,000 people aged 100 and over. Life expectancy continues to increase. In 2055, men can expect to live on average to 95.1 and women to 96.6. So, older workers and their need to work to support themselves and our economy is a growing predicament.

Benefits of Older Workers

We all need to get on board with valuing the significant wisdom, experience, maturity, loyalty, and mentoring capability that older workers offer – and not make vast generalisations about their job and cultural fit. Culture fit is not about age – its mostly about attitude and sharing common values. Discounting older workers means missing out on fabulous people that could help you achieve your business goals.

Proven benefits of older workers over young workers include less short-term absenteeism and they stay for longer so less cost of recruiting and training new employees.

And it’s good for our economy. Research shows that an increase of 5% in paid employment of Australians over the age of 55 would result in a $48 billion impact on the national economy, every year.

What can you do?

  1. Check that your recruitment and selection process is free of bias and discrimination. Be clear on what your selection criteria is for optimal job performance and recruit against only that, which will include cultural fit against your organisational values. Have a consistent selection process for each short-listed candidate that addresses your criteria and provides each candidate a fair opportunity to evidence how they match your criteria.
  2. Offer flexible work arrangements. Flexible work arrangements are of great significance to all workers and can increase job satisfaction and productivity. Such work arrangements can be of importance to older workers with chronic health conditions and/or caring responsibilities.
  3. Do not make assumptions, especially when it comes to the employment preferences of older workers. Just because they’re older does not mean that they want to retire or not take on a new job. A common complaint of older workers is that they are ear-marked for redundancies more so than younger workers.
  4. Ensure all your employees (and any recruitment agencies you are using) are trained in understanding and preventing age, career and other types of discrimination and bullying. It’s also important that you have a clear policy and procedure covering the reporting and investigation of discrimination and bullying complaints.

And in conclusion, I recommend you watch the movie, The Intern, starring Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro that provides an informative and entertaining view of the benefits and practicalities of an older person in the workplace, as well as the challenges for a female CEO juggling business growth, husband and children. Let me know what you think.

First published on herbusiness.com

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