Just as Australia’s population is ageing, so too is the nation’s workforce, with an increasing number of workers seeking to remain in employment longer. According to Susan Ryan, who was Australia’s Age Discrimination Commissioner up until 2016, this is a huge opportunity for employers.
‘Good business sense’
Tapping into this growing talent pool, Ryan explained in a blog post, is the key to not just maintaining but unleashing the nation’s productive capacity. She pointed to research indicating the huge economic benefits that would flow if an increasing number of mature age workers were employed. For instance, a 2012 report by Deloitte Access Economics found that a 3% increase in labour force participation among workers aged 55 and over would boost GDP by $33 billion – the equivalent of 1.6% of the national income. Further, a 5% increase in participation for the group would increase GDP by around $48 billion – the equivalent of 2.4% of national income.
As well as being good for the economy, Ryan said it makes good business sense for employers to engage and retain mature age workers because they are “reliable, flexible and ready to contribute from day one”. Plus, she explained, employers with mature age workers are better able to capitalise on customer bases that are also ageing. This is in line with a 2014 whitepaper released by The Executive Connection (TEC), titled Finding the Gold in Silver Hair, which states that organisations are realising that a diverse workforce (not an ‘eternally youthful’ one) is necessary to reflect the expectations and life experiences of their customers.
Ryan’s belief that mature age workers, due to a lifetime of experiences, make great mentors to their younger colleagues is also supported by the TEC white paper: “[mature age workers] also often hold valuable intellectual capital, deep industry knowledge and strong personal networks that are hard for younger employees to match without many years in a particular industry…Younger employees and executives growing into a role often welcome the advice of a more experienced colleague who has been through similar situations before.”
Unfortunately, some employers continue to subscribe to the erroneous view that mature age workers lack the competencies they need or that their skills have a ‘use by date’. Allowing such negative stereotypes to dictate staffing decisions is harmful to the bottom line. Why? Because it means a pool of experienced and reliable workers are being overlooked.
To better understand the value mature age workers can generate for their businesses, it is useful for employers to confront some of the key myths that have been debunked by research undertaken by authorities including government agencies and think tanks:
Myth: Owing to their experience, mature age workers are more expensive
Fact: Mature age workers help employers reduce their overhead expenses, including recruitment and training costs, due to a) lower rates of absenteeism and b) increased retention – in fact, mature age workers are five times less likely to change jobs compared with their younger colleagues .
Myth: Mature age workers are more prone to health problems
Fact: Australians are living longer and healthier, with the 2015 Intergenerational Report  indicating that by 2055, men will live on average for 95.1 years and women for 96.6 years. Further, mature age workers are less likely to a) experience work related injuries and b) take sick leave .
Myth: Mature age workers are change-averse and are unable to adapt to new technologies
Fact: Older people are the fastest growing users of IT and appropriate training and support at work can greatly assist them to learn new technology systems . Further, mature age workers find using technology at work less stressful than millennials  and they’ve been found to readily engage with IT innovations when the business or productivity gain is made clear .
The Australian Government’s employment services program, jobactive, enables employers to tap into a network of jobactive providers from over 1,700 locations across Australia to connect with mature-age job candidates that fit their business needs. Likewise, providers work with mature age workers to ensure they develop the skills employers demand.
Employers can approach their local jobactive provider for a shortlist of screened and job-ready mature age candidates at no cost to their business. In addition, jobactive offers employers financial incentives for employing workers aged 50 and over. A jobactive Restart wage subsidy of up to $10,000 is available for hiring eligible mature age workers.