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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.

 

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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.

 

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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:

 

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