The ageing workforce: preparing for the future

GB recently sat down with Wayne Bishop, Director of Activetics, to discuss what the common ageing workforce risks are and how organisations can start preparing themselves now to get the best long term outcomes.

Effectively managing an ageing workforce isn’t often a high priority for many organisations, however 25% of Australian’s aged 65-68 are still in the workforce and there are twice as many in their 50’s working than a decade ago.

Activetics works with organisations to provide cost effective solutions to their ageing workforce challenges. The first issue Wayne often sees when he commences with a new client, is that they haven’t focused on their mature aged employees until an issue arises

"Often I ask companies why I am here and the answer relates to their diversity strategy. I will then ask what are they doing and they say not much. There are other areas of risk and diversity that get more attention as there are dollars and cents associated with that".

Potential Risks

In a recent article on why employing mature age workers is good business and the economy, Hon Susan Ryan, Ambassador for Mature Age Employment, states "Mature workers are reliable, flexible and ready to contribute from day one. As well as bringing a lifetime of experience to your business, mature workers are also great mentors to other staff".

However there are risks associated with mature employees that can ultimately affect an organisation’s bottom line.

The three most common are:

  1. Loss of knowledge. Mature employees often have a depth of knowledge, experience and industry contacts, unmatched by their younger counterparts. There is a risk of losing this wisdom and often this is overlooked by organisations until the employee has commenced their notice period or has left.
  2. Reduced opportunities for advancement. With an ageing population, people are staying in their jobs longer. This can mean there are fewer opportunities for advancement and growth within a company and to get ahead they need to look elsewhere.
  3. Health and Safety risks. The highest percentage of workers’ compensation claims, with the highest average cost and days off work are employees aged 55-64. This in turn means a higher impact on premiums.

How to prepare your organisation

Wayne advises that Employers should always "consider how to attract and keep the best talent regardless of age. While no two employees are the same, the ageing workforce is more often highly competent".

Steps to take now include:

  1. Discuss the future now: have meaningful two-way conversations with mature employees about their future transition plans.
  2. Get flexible: a common request from older employees is flexible work options; this could include stepping back from high pressure roles, often management roles, and up-skilling for a new position. It could also include flexible working hours and locations and project management opportunities.
  3. Capturing their knowledge: think strategically about how to capture the potential skills and knowledge loss. One way to capture this could be through a mutually beneficial coaching and mentoring program.
  4. Workforce planning: succession planning and retention options for skilled staff.
  5. Management training: focus on improving Managers attitudes, stereotypes, expectations, communication with mature aged workers.
  6. Engaging third party support: As one part of an overall strategy, organisations such as Metro Trains and VWA have also facilitated workshops through Activetic’s for mature workers to discuss career and retirement options, finances, super, health and lifestyle and transition planning.

Wayne recommends getting proactive now "There is no silver bullet in terms of short-term solutions, it requires an integrated strategic approach, and the solutions can be complex and long-term".

For more information on supporting your ageing workforce visit our blog on Health and Safety Strategies for an Ageing Workforce and talk to Gallagher Bassett about helping your business implement effective strategies to support your ageing workers.

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