That age-old question of workplace efficiency

by 31 Jul 2012

A couple of years ago Wayne Swan announced that Australians born after 1 January 1957 would only be able to access their pension when they reached the age of 67. For many this came as a shock as they realised that unlike many of their peers, they would have to carry on for an extra couple of years before they could sit back and enjoy retirement. 

What struck me recently was that everything is relative. When Alfred Deakin introduced the aged pension in 1908 there were very few people that made it over the age of 65, and as a result the Australian Government enjoyed a very healthy bank balance.

Today, life expectancy is a lot higher and according to the Federal Government’s '2010 Intergenerational Report', by 2050 there will only be 2.7 people working for each retired person. To put this into perspective, this means that 37% of Australians  will be in retirement. It therefore seems imperative that older workers are given the opportunity and encouragement to work and continue in employment.

But here’s the problem. The recession and the current economic climate has meant that a number of older workers have found themselves out of work and having to retrain to seek employment. There is also a perception among some businesses that older workers simply aren’t up to scratch. They will say things like “they have no long-term commitment”, “they’re stuck in their ways” “they’re not the right image”…. For me, these comments are the ones that are aren’t up to scratch, are short-sighted and narrow minded.

Today it’s more important than ever for companies and their employees to be efficient and productive in the workplace, but younger doesn’t always mean more productive. I would argue there is no difference in terms of performance between a 25-year-old worker and a 55-year-old one, if both are afforded the right opportunities.

With the right training and development put in place, older and younger workers can reach new heights in their chosen professions as long as the correct framework is in place. Technology has made this easier than ever to achieve. Having worked at the cutting edge of training solutions for a number of years, I have seen the positive impact that these training solutions – such as performance support on the job -  can have on both an individual’s performance and a business’ bottom line – regardless of age.

By employing a good mixture of ages in a workplace, employers are not only able to offer a different dynamic, they’re also able to capture the knowledge and skills of more experienced workers.

While it is a reasonable expectation that somebody hired at 55 would want to retire at 67, it could also be argued that a 25-year-old will not build a career at a single company. A 55-year-old worker who is given an opportunity and supported with the right framework to help them get on board, may have a much longer tenure than a 25-year-old who is more likely to look at accelerating their career at a new company after two or three years.

So while we have an aging population that is willing and able to work and an economy that demands productivity and efficiency, employers need to embrace older workers and not be put off by the fact that their generation doesn’t have an X, Y or Z at the end of it. After all, if Alfred Deakin had it his way, he would still be working today.


About the author

Frank Lonergan is the CEO of Ancile Solutions, a provider of best-in-class learning and performance software solutions. For more information about the company or services visit