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A strategy for an age diverse workforce – why?

Are you sitting on the sidelines of the conversation about the value of older workers? Or, are you waiting for another organisation to reveal the ‘why’ before you do something? Perhaps you have a gut feel that there’s an opportunity or untapped human resource that would be beneficial to your organisation, but have no budget/executive leadership team support/motivation for a small initial initiative to  demonstrate value. If this is you, check out our latest infographic that quickly summarises how older people contribute to business growth.

 

 

                                                                                                                                               

Additionally … You may be interested in our Founder and CEO Catherine Rickwood’s recent TEDx talk on why retirement is redundant. Or perhaps you’d like to watch this video on the benefits of age inclusion.

 

Infographic Sources:

https://www.hrmonline.ca/hr-news/recruitment/the-roi-on-hiring-older-employees-245085.aspx

https://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/20/health/research/20brai.html

https://hbr.org/2018/07/research-the-average-age-of-a-successful-startup-founder-is-45

https://www.brighthr.com/brightbase/topic/culture-and-performance/staff-turnover/employee-turnover-costs

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006) Labour Mobility Survey, Cat. No. 6209.0.

https://www.hrmonline.ca/hr-news/recruitment/the-roi-on-hiring-older-employees-245085.aspx

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/young-people-twice-as-likely-to-take-a-sick-day-than-older-workers-10248612.html

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006) National Health Survey: Summary of Results, 2004-05 Cat. No. 4364.0.

https://theconversation.com/five-stereotypes-about-older-workers-debunked-99954

https://theconversation.com/five-stereotypes-about-older-workers-debunked-99954

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs/10224703/Older-workers-more-reliable-study-finds.html

https://www.wired.com/insights/2014/05/employers-must-learn-creativity-just-young/

https://ourplace.co/myth-busted-older-workers-just-tech-savvy-younger-ones-says-new-survey/

https://www.yellow.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Yellow-Social-Media-Report-2018-Consumer.pdf

https://www.recode.net/2016/10/18/12427494/old-aging-high-tech

 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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

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

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

 

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