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

The over 50’s infographic to inspire inclusive business strategies

Are you looking for new growth and differentiation for your business? Are you looking for a low-risk and high reward customer to achieve that growth and differentiation? Look no further than the over 50’s market and our infographic below. Healthier, wealthier and more active online and offline than at any other time in history, the over 50’s are the chief drivers of Australia’s ‘longevity economy’.

Why are older Aussies ignored?

We are all living longer than at any other time in history. In the future, average lifespans will extend to our 90’s and beyond. And the proportion of centenarians will continue to increase. This is a future in which generational labels will no longer have a place; and older Aussies will become an integrated and integral part of the total population. However, few Australian companies have recognised the opportunity of the over 50’s – not only as a market but also as a productive workforce asset.

Why?

Because of the deeply entrenched stereotypes, assumptions and beliefs Aussies have about older Aussies. As a society, we generally consider older people as one homogenous group. This is reinforced by messages from the media, painting older people as a ‘grey tsunami’ – a group of people that will put pressure on our already overburdened pension, welfare and health systems. Consequently, this is rarely considered an attractive market.

However, as you will see in our infographic below, these ageist perceptions we have of older people are unfounded and outdated. They simply don’t belong in a world where people are routinely living to 80, 90 and beyond.

How do organisations innovate for the over 50’s?

Businesses need to start with understanding their older customers and employees to access the opportunities they represent. Our infographic below is a good place to begin. If all Aussies, younger and older, are to benefit from the gift of longer lives, businesses must start thinking about how to:

  1. Create more inclusive marketing campaigns;
  2. Iterate and innovate products and services that meet the needs and wants of the older demographic.
  3. Design inclusive HR policies and practices that harness and leverage the asset of older workers.

The key to success is evolution not revolution. An inclusive, integrated strategy that embraces the older customer and employee will remain relevant long into Australia’s much older future.  Take a look at our infographic for inspiration and insights on the longevity economy. 

Infographic: Mythbusting the over 50’s

If you’d like to better understand the over 50’s, the longevity economy and how your business can benefit from harnessing this burgeoning market, contact Three Sisters Group today to set up your complimentary one hour discussion.

 

Infographic sources:

 

Photo by Erik Witsoe on Unsplash