According to recent Australian research, there will be 3.7 million more workers aged between 50 years and pension age over the next decade. Australia is now ranked 15th on a global scale when it comes to engaging older staff. As a range of economic, social and policy changes encourage Australian workers to delay their retirement, older people will continue to comprise an increasing share of the employed workforce which will have a huge impact on Australian businesses. Adapting your business to the ageing workforce requires commitment to age based initiatives rather than costly modifications.
AccessEAP CEO, Sally Kirkright, recently appeared on the Switzer show on Sky News to discuss the topic of the ageing workforce and offer tips to organisations.
There are major changes set to take place in the Australian workforce which is something that businesses should be taking notice of. Although an ageing workforce presents new challenges, it also brings new opportunities and benefits. Employers should look at creating a positive work culture with a focus on age based and wellbeing initiatives. If organisations can introduce policies that benefit workers of any age, they will reap the business benefits, as too will the economy as a whole.
Encouraging older workers to remain in the labour market will have a range of benefits for businesses and the wider economy as well as to the individual. As such, organisations that actively engage and retain older workers now will be able to set the foundations required to effectively prepare for this expanding, untapped resource of the future.
Here are some of the key strategies that organisations may want to consider;
- Succession planning and knowledge retention
Organisations need to identify key roles and skills required for the future and identify how they will resource these roles if the current employees are reaching retirement age. Transfer of knowledge and skills needs to be considered and planned so that vital knowledge doesn’t leave an organisation when an employee retires.
- Mentoring programs
Introduce mentoring and coaching to allow skill transfer between younger and older workers. Mentoring in a one-on-one relationship can benefit both older and younger workers. A friendly, supportive environment will allow participants to build on past experiences and acquire new knowledge.
- Flexible working conditions
Encouraging organisations to employ mature workers may mean re-thinking flexible hours and pay structures. Develop flexible employment opportunities for older workers especially those in high-skilled occupations or those with carer responsibilities. This can help gradually reduce responsibilities at work and provide a phased transition to retirement.
- Recognising cognitive impairment
Organisations committed to employing older workers will need to be aware of the possibility of cognitive impairment and be able to recognize the signs if this does happen. Ensuring their continued employment will have a positive effect on the employee as they remain active slowing the decline. Employers may also have to work with individuals to change their roles if they become too challenging. Older workers will also need to take responsibility for themselves and be active in managing their condition.
- Training programs to manage older workers
Younger managers are more accustomed to overseeing only younger workers and so may find it challenging to manage older employees. Implement a program to provide skills to managers in managing work teams of differing age groups.
- Conflict management
Conflict may arise as a result of differing age groups within the workplace. Managers may be required to assist in conflict resolution or to have difficult conversations with workers. It is advised to provide additional training to managers as the workforce continues to become more diverse.
- Help workers transition to retirement
‘Preparing for Retirement’ awareness sessions help older employees consider all the factors surrounding retirement such as the loss of social connections or the financial implications. These sessions will support workers to understand the challenges ahead so they can be more prepared.
- Financial counseling
For many workers, retirement can see a shift in financial circumstances if they are not fully prepared. Financial education can help support workers nearing retirement age. With the demographic of the Australian workforce set to experience major changes over the coming years, employers should consider equipping themselves with the knowledge and resources to manage these changes to benefit their own organisation as well as the individuals.