Close consultation with older workers needed

by HCA09 Nov 2011

A significant challenge facing Australia is the ageing population, and the challenge has led policy-makers to consider how older workers can be kept in the workforce.

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), has this week released a new book of research essays which have been written since a roundtable held in Canberra in May, when the issue was hotly debated by industry stakeholders.

Themes to arise from the roundtable included the need to consider the diversity of older workers, the challenges of low literacy and numeracy skills for some older workers, discrimination and stereotypes, and the recognition that not all older workers want to keep working.

In turn, the issues addressed in the new release, Older workers: research readings reflect the central challenges, and Francesca Beddie, general manager research NCVER, commented that while some older workers can manage their transition into retirement, others are not in a position to choose when and how they move out of the workforce.

“We must also remember that not all older workers want to continue working,” Beddie added.

However, research from Mercer’s 2011 What’s Working survey has found older workers are feeling left out of career development opportunities, with only 40% of 55-64 year olds feeling they have sufficient opportunities for growth and development. 

In addition to opening up greater career opportunities for Australia’s older and experienced workers,

Rob Bebbington, head of Mercer’s Human Capital business in Australia and New Zealand, said employers need to think ahead and enforce adequate succession planning as Baby Boomers begin to edge towards retirement age in the coming years. 

According to the Mercer findings, HR directors/leaders need to look closely at where their older employees are best placed within the organisation, and where their skills and experience can be shared and optimised to prepare the next generation of leaders and managers.


  • by Shane Higgins 10/11/2011 3:15:05 PM

    I own and run - the only national job board in Australia that links older workers specifically with age-friendly employers; that is jobs specifically for older jobseekers and certainly they are a very diverse group. One of the issues in the past has been that this cohort has been considered homogenous, when indeed they are not. Their level of skills varies enormously, whether they want to continue working or not, whether or not they want full, part time or casual work only and whether they want to use their skills or downgrade to a job with less pressure. One thing is for certain, many of them do want to continue working in one form or another, but are not being considered for positions.
    On the other hand we have hundreds of employers that are looking to have a workforce that includes the experience, loyalty and problem-solving abilities that older workers have. We recently did a survey of our 14,000 plus registered jobseekers and it clearly showed that over 50% of them were seeking full time employment, so any employer that excludes the over 45's from the selection process risks excluding high value candidates.
    The low literacy/numeracy skills some older workers have are no more an issue than low literacy/numeracy for Gen X and Gen Y. Research indicates that this is not a major issue in this cohort, except possibly for those with a non-English speaking background. The benefits of older workers far outweigh any disadvantages, and all recent research confirms this is the case. The government needs to actively promote older workers and the benefits of the work skills and life skills they bring with them.
    The issue of retention of older workers is a whole other subject, with recent research showing that many companies have no strategies in place to retain their older workers. If they don't put into place effective and appropriate retention policies there is a high risk of losing these valued employees, and replacing them and their knowledge will be extremely difficult.

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