Time to think about older workers: experts
It’s well and truly time to start thinking about how to make older workers feel welcome, experts say.
“Let’s get over our shock that older workers are going to be there longer and now ask the question about how can we make that useful and productive for everyone,” University of South Australia human resource management research professor Carol Kulik says.
“I think we really do need to be much more accommodating for older workers.”
The experts have some tips for both older workers and employers.
* FOR MATURE-AGE PEOPLE TRYING TO FIND A JOB:
It’s going to be tough, it’s difficult, but the key thing is to keep at it,” says Greg Goudie, executive director of South Australian employment service DOME (Don’t Overlook Mature Expertise).
“They’ve got so much to offer. They probably don’t know how much they do have to offer,” Kronos Australia and New Zealand managing director Peter Harte says.
He advises learning how to write a resume and remarket yourself.
“You’d be surprised at the great things that person’s done that they haven’t really recorded.”
Mr Goudie says older workers shouldn’t be afraid to knock on doors, as 80 per cent of jobs that are filled are never advertised.
RE-EXAMINE YOUR WORK EXPERIENCE
Mature-age people do have work experience skills, even if it’s stating that you’re able to work in a group with other people.
“A lot of employers hold that in high regard,” Mr Goudie says.
LEARN A DIFFERENT SKILL
Skilled workers have a greater chance of staying in the workforce than unskilled workers, Mr Harte says.
He advises learning a different type of skill and make sure employers know they can be very flexible.
A lot of people who get to 50 and 55 and are out of work for a year can think it’s all too hard and `I’ll just give it up”, Mr Goudie says.
* FOR EMPLOYERS AND THE BROADER COMMUNITY:
GOVERNMENT’S RESTART PROGRAM
The federal government’s restart program – offering a $10,000 incentive to hire and retain job seekers aged 50 and over who’ve been receiving income support – may be counterproductive, Edith Cowan University psychology discipline leader Dr Eyal Gringart says.
“The message this policy sends is that older workers are inferior to younger workers and require special consideration.”
THINK ABOUT THE SIGNALS SENT TO OLDER WORKERS
Organisations don’t signal a very strong openness to older job applicants, Prof Kulik says.
Their websites can have photos of bright, shiny young people and talk about fun and high-energy environments.
“It’s very easy I think for an older job seeker to think `that’s a signal, that’s a code for saying you don’t want somebody like me’. It’s a very discouraging process.”
HELP WORKERS UPSKILL
Mature-age workers in organisations that adopt specific mature-age practices report high levels of engagement, Prof Kulik says.
The practices can be to help older workers upskill, having alternative career paths so an employee can move into phased retirement, take on a new work assignment or mentor junior people.
Organisations haven’t thought much about what kind of flexibility older workers need, Prof Kulik says.
It’s not start times or which days they work. It’s opportunities to take extended leaves of absence if they have to for health reasons or alternatively to travel, while maintaining their job security.
SOME INDUSTRIES NEED TO ACT NOW
Professionals and managers tend to have more flexibility and autonomy, Prof Kulik says.
It’s not as clear what will happen for people with physically demanding jobs such as construction workers, miners and plumbers if flexibility isn’t offered, she says.
“Either we’re going to have to retrain them and do some kind of major career shift that works better or we’re going to have to be a lot more flexible about thinking about how work can be designed.”
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