Productive Engagement

| May 20, 2013

In discussions about mature workers, the focus is too often on ageism and negative stereotypes. Heidi Holmes, Managing Director of Adage, a job board and online community for experienced workers aged 45 plus, offers solutions in relation to older jobseekers.

Through my business I am exposed on a daily basis to both mature jobseekers and employers. On a more ad hoc basis, I also engage with academics, researchers, policy makers, consultants and advocacy groups.

Within this community, when the issues concerning mature workers are discussed, the conversation tends to focus on ageism, longer periods of unemployment, barriers to employment, negative stereotypes and so on. While these are all valid issues for discussion, rarely do I see a conversation happening direct with employers, whether in the media or the wider community, where their opinions are heard and debated.

While we may see employers as the ‘problem’ in this scenario, there is no doubting that they are also the solution. Therefore, we need to have an open and honest conversation with these ‘gatekeepers’ in order to understand what are their potential concerns with regards to recruiting from this talent pool and then adjust our communication and engagement strategies accordingly.

Building the Business Case for Employers

Through our experience with dealing with employers, there have been three key drivers in converting an employer into an ‘age friendly’ one.

Where have they gone: The cost of turnover

One of the most widely reported benefits of hiring mature workers relates to turnover. Research has found that older workers aged 45+ will stay with an organisation 2.4 times longer on average than under 45s. Given the huge costs associated with turnover, this is an attractive sales proposition for employers.

Skills Shortage: Where is your next worker?

Despite a softening labour market, the outlook remains scarce for employers. Over the next decade, 85% of labour market growth will come from candidates aged 45+. For every one new labour market entrant, there are seven available over the age of 45. Over the next few years, organisations in some instances won’t have a choice but to turn to this talent pool. Those who position themselves now as an ‘age friendly’ employer, potentially stand to gain from a competitive advantage in the inevitable war for talent.

Know your consumer: Reflecting your customer base in your workforce

Encouragingly, many employers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits and importance of reflecting your customer base in your workforce. The over 50s market control 60% of all wealth, have more disposable income than any other age group, spend more on travel, entertainment, white goods, gardening, new cars, furniture, food and beverages, with over 78% now owning their own computer. B2C businesses wanting to tap into this consumer dollar need to make sure they are represented in their sales force.

An Intergenerational Approach

Another observation I’ve personally made is that while there is a ‘community’ discussion being had on productive ageing, all areas of the community are not necessarily being represented at the table.

Whether you are Gen Y, Gen X or a Baby Boomer, the fact remains that we are all intertwined. It is naïve to assume that Gen Y or X are ignorant or uninterested in the plight faced by many mature workers – some are actually their parents. Many have also benefitted from working directly with older workers who may have mentored them or guided them in their careers. Yet this is a phenomenon rarely discussed or celebrated.

From a recruitment perspective, the prospective hiring managers we need to engage and educate are also more often than not going to be represented from the Gen Y/X demographic. Therefore it is imperative that we look at strategies to engage them in the conversation rather than using a ‘stick approach’ driven by the need to manage risk or meet quotas.

Productive Engagement

It is easy to become consumed by the need to identify the issues, rather than offer solutions. The GAP/ACHR Productive Ageing conference in the NSW Parliament House on Friday, 17 May offered a timely opportunity for us to acknowledge the issues at hand, but also put forward some practical and commercially viable solutions for all segments of the community.