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3 tips to enable successful job sharing

 Job sharing: could it be a new, vibrant facet of the ‘sharing economy’? An economy that is not only about sharing goods but full-time jobs between people? An increasing number of people are taking up and enjoying the benefits of this working arrangement*.

Three Sisters Group dug a little deeper into the growing job sharing trend. We interviewed  Veronica and Deena – some real-life job sharers – to find out about their experience and learnings from over 18 months of sharing a demanding role at a local council.

Despite our knowledge of the benefits to the organisation and the employee of flexible working arrangements, we were still surprised at just how positive and rewarding the experience has been for them. In fact, the intergenerational nature of their arrangement has made it even more so. Veronica is energised by Deena’s “fresh” and “exciting” initiatives and new ways of doing things. While Deena appreciates the wealth of knowledge, established relationships and political know-how that Veronica brings to the table.

From our interview, we  identified three tips** we believe are more widely applicable to employers, HR, hiring managers and anyone else with an interest in providing more flexible options, such as job sharing, to their workforce.

No.1: Know your strengths and personalities

One thing’s for sure: Veronica and Deena didn’t just walk blindly into job sharing. At the outset, they did their due diligence to ensure their strengths complemented each other. In addition, considering their big personalities, they tested the waters to establish they were actually compatible when it came to working together.

What also benefited them both was being able to relate to each other at a personal level. As Veronica put it:

“Deena is the same age as one of my daughters. And then having a baby at around the time my children are having our grandchildren. So there was a connection there around people we care for personally.”

No. 2: Maintain open and honest communication

Veronica and Deena have often found that having each other to talk to provides a different perspective. It can often lead to a more efficient and effective approach to a project or solving a problem. In particular, it can be useful when resolving conflicts that arise.

To ensure the ongoing success of their working relationship, Veronica and Deena have a review process. This provides a forum through which they can speak openly and honestly about their working relationship, voice concerns, and discuss how they could do things differently in future. In ways that work for both of them.

“If we come up against challenges, we find out the reason it isn’t working and do it differently.”

They’ve also realised the importance of having ownership over certain tasks and projects to the sustainability of their job share arrangement. Ultimately, this is only possible by committing to regular communication to keep each other across what the other is working on.

“We don’t work on many tasks together. We have our own portfolios, which works really well.”

No. 3: Ensure HR support

Veronica and Deena are lucky enough to have a HR Department that recognises the benefits of job sharing and flexibility. As a result, they have been very supportive of Veronica and Deena’s arrangement. This has made it easier for them to negotiate hours and responsibilities that suit them.

The key to successful job sharing and for its wider replication in other organisations, is acknowledging the positive impact flexible work arrangements have on organisational productivity. Not to mention the huge opportunities this creates for more people to remain at work.


Three Sisters Group supports organisations to transform and optimise their performance by creating workplace strategies inclusive of people all ages. We recently released a video on the benefits of age inclusion and our Founder and CEO Catherine Rickwood recently did a TEDx talk on why retirement is redundant. We’re on the cusp of an age revolution at work. Call Three Sisters Group today to find out more about how we can help your organisation, including through our survey on retirement, ageing and work.


*Job sharing is an arrangement where two or more employees share the demands of a job that traditionally one person working full-time undertakes.

**If you’re interested in learning more about how to make job sharing work, check out this article from Harvard. We’ve also written more on the topic of the future of work here and here.

 

Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography on Unsplash

3 impacts of workforce ageism

Imagine being 55 years of age or above. Or perhaps you are in this age group and through unforeseen circumstances (e.g. redundancy or workplace age discrimination) you lose your job. As a mature age person, on average, it will take you 68 weeks to find your next job. If you’re over 50 and currently working, you have a 27% chance of experiencing age discrimination in the workforce. Workforce ageism. We’ll all be over 50 one day, so why is ageism so prevalent in the workforce? And why should we care?

Ageism

The word ‘ageism’, first coined by Robert N. Butler, M.D. in 1969, makes assumptions and discriminates against people based on their age. Underpinning ageism are age stereotypes. Age stereotypes include everything from attitudes and beliefs about a person’s behaviour through to notions about their likes and dislikes.

It is a fact that lifespans are longer today than at any other time in history. In 2050, over 25% of Australia’s population will be over 65. Yet, beliefs about what older people can or can’t do are based on an outdated and culturally reinforced idea of what it is like to be 55. As Dr Helen Barrie states in this short video, we’ve compressed morbidity. People are not only living longer, they are living in good health for longer.

Fact: Almost 25% of Australia’s population is over 55 years of age. Yet, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission, the workforce comprises only 16% of this age group.

3 impacts of workforce ageism

There are many implications of ageist recruitment, retention, and training policies within organisations. Organisations that practice ageism are missing out on:

  1. Enhanced knowledge transfer. Older people have skills and experience that are relevant – even in an increasingly digital environment. For example, communication abilities that can encompass conflict resolution; basic workplace etiquette; and, business networks that have been developed and acquired over many years. The movie ‘The Intern’ is a classic reminder of the value older people can bring to a workplace.
  2. Quality customer service. A contact centre comprising only of young people will typically have stereotypical views of older people. This gap between internal staff knowledge and insights about older people and the customer can and does impact customer experience. This was beautifully demonstrated by Judy Dench in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
  3. Optimised product & service innovation and design. When there’s a poor representation of older people in an organisation there’s a risk that products or services are either:
    1. Not designed for older people; or
    2. Innovation is restricted by ageist perceptions, as is the case with the latest release of the Apple watch.

Longer lives are a gift. Addressing ageism in the workplace is overdue. However, with leadership commitment and perhaps a selfish motivation to change the situation for ourselves, a workforce without ageism is possible.


Three Sisters Group specialises in developing age-inclusive business strategies. Addressing ageism, age stereotypes, and removing biases associated with generational labelling are foundational to our work. If you would like to explore this further and learn about our survey that measures employee perceptions towards retirement, ageing, and work, contact us today.

 

Photo by Simon Wijers on Unsplash

Three Sisters Group at TEDx Canberra

“It’s time to look at where we want to go. To create a new future. A different future. A future that utilises and maximises this gift of longer lives.”

~Catherine Rickwood, TEDx Canberra 2018~

September was an exciting month for Three Sisters Group with our Founder, Dr Catherine Rickwood, stepping onto the red dot – the round red carpet that adorns stages for TEDx events around the world. Catherine’s compelling TED talk took us on a journey that questioned the long-held premise of retirement and how we currently live our lives – at a time when our lives are so long and becoming longer.

What are the implications of longer lives for organisations?

It’s crucial that organisations start re-imagining their workforce and create structures, policies and practices unbounded by existing age stereotypes. It’s time to acknowledge the impact of our ever-increasing life spans and challenge our current approaches to older workers and customers.

“Remove the invisible but fully present age ceiling in our thinking, attitudes, beliefs and behaviour about what we believe people can or can’t do based on their age.”

~Catherine Rickwood, TEDx Canberra 2018~

Why?

Because traditional views of ageing (ones of decline and decrepitness) no longer stack up. Imagination and innovation are limited by our outdated understanding of what it means to age. Today older Australians (aged 55 and above) are typically wealthier, healthier, more active and more technically savvy than previous generations. And, as Catherine says:

Planning our working lives to this end point in our sixties limits our potential and robs our world of knowledge, skills and experience that could contribute to positive social, economic and environmental change”.

 

What next?

Discover the revenue benefits and cost savings of building business and HR strategies that smash age stereotypes and eliminate ageism. Consider introducing one of these 3 strategies:

  1. Intergenerational job-sharing.
  2. Product innovation through co-design with customers of all ages.
  3. Communications audit of printed and electronic media. How are age stereotypes being reinforced?

More specifically:

Hiring managers and HR teams – have you considered the impact of enforced retirement age policies? What retraining opportunities exist for all staff and do you have a cross-mentorship program?

Product designers, developers and marketers – have you thought about diversifying the product offering to the over 55s? If so, are you treating the over 55s as one homogenous customer segment or developing products and marketing campaigns based on outmoded cultural stereotypes – like Apple?


ABOUT THREE SISTERS GROUP

Three Sisters Group specialises in working with organisations to develop age-inclusive business strategies. Addressing ageism, age stereotypes, and removing biases associated with generational labelling are foundational to our work as these issues limit creativity and opportunities.

Sought for her strategic skills, insights on longer lives, and as an informative and inspiring speaker, Three Sisters Group Founder and CEO, Catherine Rickwood, has developed a reputation as one of Australia’s leading experts on the ageing population.

Contact us to find out more about our services and/or to arrange a complimentary one hour consultation.

Can human resource professionals address homelessness amongst older women?

An alarming number of women over 50 in Australia today are doing it tough. A lady I encountered in the Sydney CBD served as a stark reminder…

Thin as a rake; shaking from the cold wind; tattered clothes and shoes; bright, piercing blue eyes and hands outstretched. I stopped and talked with her. She said she was 66 and willing to work. But no one would offer her a job. Consequently, she’s now homeless and survives on just one meal a day.

Australia’s invisible women

The woman I met is a visible reminder of an otherwise invisible demographic. Homeless women over 55 are the fastest growing demographic of people experiencing homelessness.

Unfortunately, for homeless older women, they wear a double-layered invisibility cloak. The first layer is an outcome of the generally low value society attributes to older women. The second is their ‘hidden’ homelessness. To escape the dangers of living on the streets, many homeless women choose to stay in temporary accommodation or with friends. Alternatively they’ll couch-surf or live out of their cars – which is why the lady in the Sydney CBD was such a wake up call. We’re leaving so many women like her behind.

Prevention vs Cure: The 3 steps for Human Resources

Ageism continues to be an issue in the workplace. A survey conducted in 2015 by the Australian Human Rights Commission revealed that more than a quarter of Australians aged 50 years and over had experienced age discrimination in the workplace. In fact, there is more ageism in Australia than you might think, as this video shows.

Age discrimination is particularly pronounced for older women. Older women are too often dismissed as job candidates – especially after long career gaps due to child rearing or other caring responsibilities.  Yet, women bring enthusiasm, energy, experience, and soft skills to the working environment that can make a significant contribution to business processes and outcomes.

Furthermore, as we now live into our 80s and beyond, we are on the cusp of creating a new future for work and workplaces. Increasingly there’s changing attitudes towards work and retirement. Indeed, older people are working for longer and even younger people intend to work long past the traditional retirement age of 65.

To accommodate and leverage this attitudinal shift, reduce the inequities for women, and potentially contribute to a reduction in homelessness, HR professionals are invited to take these first 3 steps:

  1. Start the conversation about recruiting, training, and retaining older workers.
  2. Develop flexible work policies and practices that accommodate people’s changing needs. E.g. intergenerational job sharing
  3. Recognise that many people no longer consider 65 as ‘the end of the road’ for work. It’s time organisations harness the knowledge, skills, and expertise of older workers for the benefit of all.

But most importantly, recognise that a woman over 50 is someone to employ. She’s powerful and interesting. She seeks new challenges that have a purpose. Ultimately, she wants work that utilises her strengths, skills, and experience.

Final note: the power of work for older women

The causes of homelessness and poverty amongst older women in Australia vary. Aside from the provision of affordable housing, offering older women (and indeed all women) appropriate, flexible, and meaningful work and career options is essential to breaking the cycle of disadvantage. Moreover, employment pathways for older women** will be crucial to overcoming:

  • The 47% less superannuation women retire with compared to men (and they live 5 years longer than men on average); and
  • The 34% of women over 60 in permanent income poverty (compared to 27% of single older men and 24% of couples).

 

Here at Three Sisters Group, we work with organisations to build age-inclusive business strategies. Speak to us today to start tapping into the power of older people.

 

**If you are over 45, female (or male) and looking for work, take a look at the Federal Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency [https://www.wgea.gov.au/].

Some other great recruitment agencies specialising in older workers are:

Also check out these organisations that are supporting female entrepreneurs of all ages to start their own businesses:

 

 

Photo by Aris Sfakianakis on Unsplash

The future of work, older workers and the gig economy

Forget the robots. The future of work is already here. Freelancer, Upwork, TaskRabbit, FlexJobs, AirTasker, Expert360 – these are just a few of the many digital freelance marketplaces that are powering the rapidly advancing ‘gig economy’ in Australia. Some companies are even developing their own freelance management systems.

And it’s not just younger workers driving this trend. It’s workers of all ages, life stages and levels who are looking for more flexibility and autonomy in their working lives. Research by Deloitte has shown that by 2020, 40 per cent of the workforce in the United States will be freelance and contingent – Australia’s is likely to be no different.

Considerations for managing older workers in the gig economy

To remain attractive to workers in the future, here’s a couple of considerations for managing older workers in this new world of work.

  • Decoupling age and experience from job descriptions and wage

For what appears to be the first time in the history of work, the gig economy (made up of independent contractors, contingent workers, freelancers, temp workers) presents older workers with a way to bypass the age biases and discrimination of conventional workplaces. Indeed, most digital freelance marketplaces are age-agnostic. They allow prospective workers to compete for a job based on the relevance of their skills and expertise to the project or task, no matter how old they are. Therefore, the chances of not being hired because of being “overqualified” or being perceived as “too old” to work are much diminished.

  • Getting serious about flexible working arrangements

Even if your company isn’t yet considering supplementing their workforce with gig workers, the growing desire to work flexibly is an increasing trend. Indeed, 85 percent of Australians consider traditional 9 to 5 office hours to be inflexible for both present and future workers – of all ages. Flexible work arrangements are particularly attractive to older workers who are often content to work part-time, and are not looking for career progression nor a huge salary. It’s also not uncommon for people 50+ to develop a portfolio career vs retaining a traditional 9 to 5 job.

Implications for training & talent management

  • Remaining competitive in the talent war

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, if organisations wish to recruit the best people for the job, the focus must be on concrete skills and expertise rather than people’s age or previous level of seniority. Consequently, age-objective hiring strategies are essential.

  • Retaining the best talent

We are reminded constantly that today’s workforce will need to engage in lifelong learning to keep their skills up-to-date and to remain relevant. Consequently, creating a culture of learning that supports and encourages people of all ages to engage with ongoing education ensures workforce skills remain relevant. This approach is also most likely to attract and retain talent. Workers are able to adapt and more easily evolve their careers in ways they may not have imagined possible.

Act now to stay ahead

A recent survey of 500 UK employers showed that as few as 20% are discussing strategies for managing older workers. Whilst a similar survey has not been conducted in Australia, our experience tells us that even fewer employers would be considering older workers in their strategic planning. Ultimately, the gig economy will force all organisations to restructure their workforces. It’s the organisations that act now that will pull ahead and reap the benefits of a more diverse workforce. The laggards will fall further behind.

 

 

If you’re looking for new ways to harness the older worker talent pool , call Three Sisters Group today.

 

Photo by sergio souza on Unsplash

3 steps to create an age-friendly Future of Work

When we hear “The Future of Work”, we generally think of a high-tech world crowded by robots and powered by AI. Perhaps. But this sort of thinking ignores some of the wider trends happening around us in the world of work, including longer lives.

By 2056, the 2015 Intergenerational Report projects life expectancy at birth to be 95.1 years for men and 96.6 years for women. Compared with 91.5 and 93.6 years today. What does this mean for the workplace? Equally, what are the implications for planning our working lives?

Longer lives & today’s workplace

Much has been written about the challenges for older people to gain and retain employment in today’s workplace. And whilst there are organisations embracing the older worker, by and large, employment past 60 or 65 becomes increasingly difficult.

“If ageism is rampant anywhere, it’s in the corporate world. We know that it’s very difficult for older people to get another job if they’ve lost their job in their 50s and 60s…It’s extremely difficult for them to find retraining that is meaningful, to engage in a new industry…That’s where the corporate world really has to be more accountable. We’ve done it with gender…”

Helen Barrie*

Longer lives & HR

Our longer working lives require HR leaders to re-imagine and re-create ways of working that are sustainable for employees in the long term. The challenge is that there are no existing models for doing this. Why? Because lives are longer today than at any other time in history.  Consequently, HR leaders have an opportunity to work creatively with employees to discover and implement new ways of working.

For example, the new world of work  could involve:

  • People not starting full-time work until age 40 to allow more time to educate and care for young children;
  • Age-inclusive recruitment and training policies and procedures that seek to hire and keep people in their 60s and beyond;
  • Creating an environment that enables job-sharing, including intergenerational job sharing;
  • Flexible work practices that facilitate and encourage people to take sabbaticals or gap years from time to time – at all ages and stages of life;
  • Training and education leave or benefits to encourage lifelong learning. It’s predicted that we’ll have up to 17 employers and 5 careers on top of constant workplace technological change and disruption in our lifetime.

An age friendly Future of Work

Ultimately, the research shows that all workers, regardless of age, are all looking for the same things in their careers: flexibility, autonomy, respect and recognition, and having purpose. With this in mind, here are 3 steps your HR team can take now to create sustainable and age-friendly work practices for workers of all ages:

1. Increase flexibility

Acknowledge that everyone needs time out for rest, leisure, looking after their health and caring for their loved ones. One Australian company has gone as far as introducing unlimited paid leave to great acclaim.

2. Adopt ‘agile’ HR practices

HR teams will need to rely on the four key tenets of agile: responsiveness to employee needs through efficient feedback systems; experimentation with new models, policies and practices; validated learning through minimum viable policies and practices followed by iterations; and, finally, trust and collaboration with line managers and teams. You can see more on agile HR here.

3. Commit to cultural change

Develop a culture amongst the leadership team, employees, suppliers, partners, and customers that embraces the contributions of workers across all ages, including valuing a supportive multigenerational work environment. Beyond the tremendous positive effects this will have on worker morale and productivity, such a culture will facilitate the development of innovative products and services that meet the needs of 21st Century demographic realities.

Dr Catherine Rickwood stated in her recent Canberra TEDx talk:

“Longer lives are a gift we’ve  all been given. Regardless of gender, race, religion, sexuality or ability. Age spans all diversity and inclusion issues.”

An age-friendly workplace will create the foundations for an inclusive, cohesive, and productive workforce for decades to come.

 

Three Sisters Group is committed to changing the cultural conversation about becoming older. We specialize in working with organisations to develop age-inclusive business strategies – across both HR and marketing, including product design and development. To learn more, visit our website or connect with us via LinkedIn or Twitter. Or speak with us today.

 

 

*Helen Barrie is Research Fellow & Deputy Director, Hugo Centre for Migration and Population Research, University of Adelaide

Photo credit: iStock

Guest blog: When will I be the ‘right age’ for the workforce?

Aislinn Martin feels she’s been ‘too young’, too ‘risky an age’ or in some cases even ‘too old’, during her 24 years in the workforce. So when is the right age?

Too young

My working life started at fourteen years and nine months as a checkout chick in a large retail chain.

I looked even younger than 14 and felt uncomfortable asking to check the bags of adult customers. Some of the customers weren’t impressed either and told me as much.

In my late teens, sometimes the younger workers would be given more weekend shifts than me, as they were cheaper.

At twenty-one, after graduating from university, I began working in local government and was easily the youngest person in the lift every morning.  There were often looks of confusion – perhaps I was a work experience student or somebody’s child coming to visit them? I looked about seventeen.

In my late twenties, in a different role, I sometimes struggled being taken seriously in the workplace. Were my decisions based on any kind of knowledge or expertise? Was I sure that I didn’t want to check in with another person to confirm a course of action? I appeared to be about twenty-three.

Too ‘risky an age’

By my early thirties, I was managing other people in the workplace and had clawed my way to middle management. All the jobs I had I fought hard for; at one stage I spent a year applying for more senior, ongoing roles. I recall one interview with two men around this time: They asked repeatedly if I would be able to travel interstate regularly and I replied yes. I did not have children and indicated to them that I had travelled to remote areas in previous jobs. I never heard from them again; I sensed they thought that I was of ‘an age’ where I might require maternity leave.  I had been in the workforce for eighteen years by this stage. People assumed I was in my late twenties.

Still too young?

At nearly forty, I feel ready to take the next step up the career ladder.  I have officially been in the workforce for twenty-four years now. I have additional tertiary qualifications and a lot of experience across a variety of sectors, with some specialist expertise in couple of areas. I bring with me a lengthy list of successful organisational outcomes, a roll-my-sleeves-up approach and a keen interest in continuing education and development.  However, my recent experience job-hunting suggests employers still deem me to be ‘too young’ to take on senior or executive roles. Despite the fact that men in my age bracket, and sometimes younger, have often overtaken me in terms of role seniority. Can this all be attributed to their greater skills sets/expertise/qualifications/presentation/emotional intelligence/attitude/cultural fit/networking? And no, there have not been any significant career breaks that might place me behind the pack.  I look to be in my mid-30s.

Too old

However, the one exception appears to be in the start-up/entrepreneurial sector, where I am now apparently ‘too old’. Some of these companies are not interested in qualifications or experience as it is more about hipster attitude, living in the northern suburbs of Melbourne and a neck beard. Well, given ‘my age’ a beard is not out of the realms of possibility so perhaps there is hope!  A recent article on ‘Linkedin’ spoke about ageism in recruitment, noting that anyone over forty is at risk.

No answers

What happened to forty being the new thirty and so on? Given our current life expectancy predictions, I am around half-way through this journey.  Doesn’t that count for something?

How is it I have spent a professional lifetime working towards this seniority and I am still ‘too young’?

How can it be that at the very same time, I am also ‘past it’?

Can someone please explain to me exactly when the ‘right age’ is?

 

This article originally appeared in The Women’s Agenda in July 2018.

Are you a HR leader looking to create a work environment friendly to all ages, genders, cultures and abilities? Speak to Catherine Rickwood today on 0422 002 202 or contact us.

 

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Is de-greying your workforce hurting customer experience?

Companies are adaptable, creative and profitable despite the age of their workforce. At least this is what a growing body of research is showing. So why do we have HR policies and practices that, however unintentionally, work to de-grey our workplaces? What are the impacts of our unconscious biases and ill-conceived stereotypes of older people on innovation and service delivery? Ultimately, what is the impact on the customer experience?

An Enormous Missed Opportunity

As author and activist, Ashton Applewhite, affirms,

“we live in a culture that tells us that getting older means shuffling off stage”.

Nowhere is this culture more pronounced, and damaging, than in the workplace. We’ve all heard stories of older customers (and workers) being treated less than favourably on the basis of their age or perceived age.

Baby boomers represent a vast, unprecedented, untapped market. In fact, they represent a quarter of the Australian population. And according to the Property Council of Australia (2015), almost 80% of baby boomers own their home, representing an enormous financial resource. Yet, this generation is often either ignored or neglected when it comes to customer experience. Engaging all staff to improve the customer experience of older customers is crucial to realising the potential of this market. To do this, organisations must create:

  1. An organisational culture and workforce of engaged employees committed to stopping ageism in its tracks.
  2. An environment that seeks opportunity amongst older customers by encouraging the development of new products and services and/or modifying existing offerings.

Why De-grey the workforce?

Already, McKinsey has revealed the bottom line benefits to companies offering an exceptional customer experience. The gross margins of these companies can exceed those of their competitors by more than 26 per cent. However, the recent Deloitte report Missing Out reveals the missed opportunity of capitalising on a diverse workforce – including older workers – to improve the experience diverse customers have with an organisation. For example, the report found that less than half (41%) of customers surveyed believe that organisations treat customers respectfully, regardless of their personal characteristics.

What’s Your Organisation’s Pulse?

Given the current and future size of the ageing population and workforce, it’s essential companies examine the attitudes and beliefs of their employees towards older people. Through an Ageing Attitudes Pulse Check, companies not only get a snapshot of the current mood of the workplace when it comes to older people, they potentially  have access to deep insights into how this could be affecting the quality of service delivery and levels of innovation among workers – both young and old.

The pulse check can provide companies with the opportunity to:

  1. Enhance the awareness of unconscious biases and stereotypes held about  older customers and workers.
  2. Educate their workforce on the value, diversity and capabilities of older customers and older workers.
  3. Explore options, through market research, to re-design or co-create products, services and business processes that are age friendly.
  4. Examine the role of older workers for enhancing the experience of older customers.

For a Hollywood example of how older workers can improve the customer experience of older customers. Take a look at this short scene from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel of Judi Dench training younger call centre staff.

If you’d like to know more about how an Ageing Attitudes Pulse Check will benefit your company, contact us.

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

Washed up jar of possibility with older workers

Are older workers considered washed up?

Few organisations have a strategic approach to managing their older workers. This issue persists despite research by Deloitte Access Economics that shows a 3 percent increase in the participation rate of workers over 55 could account for a $33 billion boost to Australia’s national economy.

The Challenge

Given the prevalence of age stereotypes in the workplace, there are some critical questions organisations need to ask:

  1. Do we understand the needs, hopes and aspirations of older workers?
  2. What are the attitudes and beliefs of younger workers towards ageing and older workers?
  3. What can we do to increase age diversity and meet the needs of all parties without negatively impacting the bottom line?

As Dr Rickwood suggests in her recent interview with Fran Kelly on Radio National, “HR policies and practices haven’t shifted to accommodate what is a burgeoning possibility in a workforce of older people”.

There are numerous examples of Australian companies that are already reaping the economic benefits of embracing an older workforce. The most well-known example being Bunnings Warehouse, which employs large numbers of older, highly-skilled tradespeople. No longer able to continue in physically demanding jobs, these people instead are offering a lifetime’s worth of expertise to Bunnings shoppers.

The Facts

According to the Age Discrimination Commissioner’s report ‘Willing to Work’, 12.7% of those aged 65 and over are in the labour force; however, this figure is expected to double by 2055.

Historically, we considered 60 or 65 to be the age at which we retired.  Or, for the financially savvy, we saw 55 years old to be “lucky”.

Unfortunately, this view of 65 as the age at which we retire largely remains. We dream of when the constraints of a workplace end, and travel and leisure beckon. However, increasingly, people are discovering that early retirement isn’t nearly as attractive as perceptions hold it to be. Indeed, many baby boomers see ‘retirement’ as a change of career.  It’s a time when they are able to enjoy more flexibility to pursue their passions and interests, whether paid or voluntary. For example, recent Australian of the Year, Graham Farquhar, revealed in an interview that he enjoyed being able to continue working in his area of expertise on an unpaid basis.  

According to research by MetLife (UK), 63% of over 50’s in their survey would consider re-training to stay working longer. There is also evidence to suggest that greater initiative is required by both older workers and businesses for training and re-skilling.

For example, organisations that invest in retention of their older, skilled workers are discovering higher organisational productivity. Similarly, it’s essential for all workers to continue to learn and educate themselves to remain relevant.

The Opportunity

Underpinning these burgeoning human resource issues is an absence of conversations with all staff – regardless of age – about their attitudes and beliefs towards ageing and remaining in the workforce beyond 50. It’s these conversations that can provide insights into how to create an open, all-age-friendly workplace environment and culture.

It is forecast that 85% of jobs in 2030 don’t yet exist. By the end of the next decade there is also a predicted shortage of workers. These two facts alone suggest that now is the time to reshape the workforce. Through their human resource policies, organisations have the opportunity to redesign work and jobs to promote flexibility. From phased or partial retirement, role transfers, blended work, bridge employment to intergenerational job sharing.

Ultimately, the Hon Dr Kay Patterson, Age Discrimination Commissioner, reminds us: “Intergenerational offices do a lot better than ones fixated on just one age group”.

Does your organisation have its finger on the pulse of the over 50’s in the office?

If you would like to better understand the over 50’s, contact us.

Photo by Andrew Bui on Unsplash

3 ideas for relevance in retirement

If you’ve heard the term “relevance deprivation” you may be older and possibly retired. Alternatively, you may be between jobs or a parent who has become an “empty nester”.  Regardless of your situation, remaining relevant is an individual responsibility.  And it can be challenging.

I’ve written before about my dislike of the word ‘retirement’. One of the many reasons for my preference to avoid the word is because it signals an endpoint. A time in our life when we’ll stop all the hard work and move to a life of leisure filled with choice. Our choice. Our way. No boss. Bliss!

What if …

We didn’t retire.  What if, instead of retiring we simply kept on living. Fully. Completely. Engaged.

Not thinking “I’m old” because old is equated with retirement.

What if, from a much younger age, we made choices and decisions knowing that life was long. Very long. Knowing that if we retire at 65 we’ll still live for 20 or more years.

What choices would we make? How differently would we live our life?

There’s work.  Then there’s retirement.

When working we remain relevant because we have purpose and meaning. There’s a reason to get up each day. At work people want us because of our knowledge, skill, or experience. We receive phone calls, emails, and invitations. Invitations to lunch. To Melbourne Cup events. To Christmas functions. Our birthday might be celebrated in the office with a cake. People notice when we’re away for an extended time and are usually grateful for our return. We’re valued. And all we have to do is show up to our workplace. Easy.

In retirement, this can all disappear. There is no office. The phone calls, emails, and invitations diminish. Whether or not we get up each day may not be noticed – by anyone.  Unless we’re in a relationship or we have adult children living with us. What happens in our day must be generated entirely by us. It requires energy, effort, and self-motivation. Less easy.

In a youth- focused culture, relevancy can feel even more challenging. Combined with an increasingly technology, digital driven world, becoming and remaining digital-savvy may also seem overwhelming.

Given this challenge, what are the options?

3 ideas for retirement relevance

In a recent podcast interview with SBS, I suggested that it was essential we all continue to learn and educate ourselves to remain relevant. Whilst the podcast was particularly focused on the disparities between millenials and older workers, those interviewed provided practical actions for reducing the gap. As I’ve said before, generational labelling was also suggested as divisive and not overly useful as a way of identifying groups of people.

Bridging a generational gap requires understanding and a willingness for both younger and older people to learn from each other. An openness and recognition that there is more than one way to do anything. And that attachment to “our way” or the “right way” limits the possibility for new ideas, innovation, and creativity.

Intergenerational relationships are crucial for us to age well. Consequently, building them into our lives is essential.

The 3 ideas?

  1. Continue learning. Whether that be through Open University, U3A, TAFE, University, free online MOOC’s, or by attending events at your local library. Foster a thirst for knowledge.
  2. Participate in community activities or hobbies where you’ll also meet and befriend younger people. Community gardens, bush regeneration, environmental or animal activist groups, book or film clubs. If there’s not one in your neighbourhood, create one.
  3. Be open. Say “yes”.

For inspiration on how to age we have role models in Judy Dench and Jane Goodall. One thing’s for sure. To remain relevant in retirement requires us to reject age stereotypes and embrace our whole life – from start to finish.

 

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

 

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