Posts Tagged “older workers”
When it comes to CVs, less is more says Judy Higgins, co-founder of website Older Workers.
Applying for a job, if done properly, is a time consuming task. And, sending out generic applications en masse will risk your brand, your reputation and the likelihood that you’ll be seriously considered for a job.
Employers and HR staff can pick a generic application and cover letter very quickly and will disregard it just as quickly. Our employers tell us if the applicant hasn’t got the right attitude with their application, and is not prepared to put in an effort, then that will likely carry through to their work. On that basis they won’t consider that applicant.
The message from employers and HR staff is clear: take the time to tailor your CV and cover letter for the particular job you are applying for; and address the specifics in the job advert in terms of must have’ skills and experience. Also, if there is a name and contact number, give the person a call and talk to them about the job, so that you are very sure about the needs of the company and how you can show you are the best applicant.
I understand if you are with Centrelink there is a requirement to apply for a minimum number of jobs within a certain period of time, and in some instances this could lead to quantity over quality. But if you are serious about applying for specific jobs, then you must put in the time and effort to ensure you give yourself every opportunity to sell your skills. More is not better when it comes to applications, particularly in a buyer’s market which it is at the moment.
The importance of a tailored CV should never be underestimated. Jobseekers need to quickly realise their CV is the tool that will, or won’t, give them the opportunity to get face-to-face with the employer. Quality wins over quantity every time when it comes to job applications.
Managing intergenerational conflict is an important issue for HR, according to Change2020 director Kerryn Fewster.
“I would say it’s probably in the top five challenges, along with retaining talent and employee engagement and things like that.”
She said that different leadership styles and expectations of work culture could cause friction within the workforce.
“Baby boomers have that more dictatorial, direct style which is, ‘I’ll tell, you follow’ but the multitude of workers is saying, ‘Why don’t we talk about it?’ and ‘Why don’t we look at it a different way?’.
They’ve been brought up in an environment where curiosity and challenge and collegial conversations are the norm.”
She said that even things like office design could cause conflict – as a recent client case demonstrated.
A third-tier construction company that was expanding into new areas hit a snag when the younger leadership put forward their office plan.
“They want open plan. They don’t need it to be an ivory tower. They’re looking for a place that will contribute to open conversation, is flexible – all the things you and I might look for in an engaging work space. The ones who make the ultimate decisions say, ‘That’s not how we do business’.”
She said the older leadership didn’t necessarily recognise the benefit of open communication in the office and it was about building trust that workers were still productive, even if they were able to chat to each other.
“What we’ve seen work quite well is where the knowledge and experience of the older workforce is really embraced and seen as a great opportunity to foster a learning culture. From day one, they’re part of the induction and they’re the storytellers. I think that’s a really critical component. In my experience, people want to be heard. They want to have questions asked of them.”
Establishing mentoring relationships early on with new employees could also be useful.
“Humanise the sharing of information and the development. Mentoring programs are a really good way to do that. It shows that there is value to be contributed by all levels of the organisation, regardless of age or duration of service.
“Fundamentally, there are levels of brilliance and capability regardless of your age, shape, gender or background and it’s about harnessing that. Anyone can learn at any age and if a person is important to the organisation in terms of what they deliver and how they do things, invest in them.”
Prospects for older workers have been improving over the last decade, which is fortunate with government plans to extend the retirement age to 70 by 2035. However, some sectors are proving to be more age friendly’ than others.
A numbers game
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the health care and social assistance’ sector are the leaders, employing over 300,000 older workers (15 per cent of their workforce), followed by education and training’ (204,000, 10 per cent) and manufacturing’ (178,000, 9 per cent) as of November 2013. Professional and scientific services’ show up at 8 per cent with construction and retail’ both on 7 per cent of their overall workforce. Surprisingly, the public service – long a bastion of diversity – comes in at only 7 per cent with 147,000 older workers.
Australia is tenth in the world in participation of workers aged 55 to 64, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) figures from July 2013, which notes Australia’s leading job board for mature workers,OlderWorkers.com.au.
“We lag behind countries like Chile, New Zealand, Germany, Japan and Korea. Clearly more work needs to be done by government at all levels, who should be leading by example,” says OlderWorkers general manager, Judy Higgins.
Experience is an asset
Progress in this area appears to be driven mainly by the private sector, in companies both large and small. One company that has deliberately made older worker employment a strong focus is Woolworths, who claim 8.4 per cent of their workforce is over 55 years of age.
Estelle Olstein, the diversity manager for the Woolworths Group, sings the praises of older workers:
“Mature-aged workers bring life experience, maturity and well-developed communication and technical skills,” she says. “Having a diverse workforce enables Woolworths to leverage the unique contributions, experiences and perspectives.”
Best of the bunch
Another employer who truly appreciates the virtues and abilities of the mature workforce is Danielle Robertson, the CEO of Dial-an-Angel – an innovative home services business.
Robertson is positively effusive in her appreciation: “The value of older workers to Dial-An-Angel is the life experiences they’ve had. Mature workers tend to be more reliable, adaptable, loyal, willing to learn, compassionate towards others and patient.”
She adds: “They tend to stay longer and are more committed to making a difference in other people’s lives. They are friendly and keen to help us out in an emergency and happy to change plans at the last minute for urgent bookings.”
In fact, over 60 per cent of her workforce is 45 years of age or older.
In a world consumed by occupational health and safety issues, and a burgeoning demand for qualifications for even the simplest jobs, it is refreshing to hear Robertson say that she doesn’t look for qualifications if they present with practical experience.
“With the care industry, qualifications are encouraged but not essential for those who have worked in the industry for many years.”
People over processes
Robertson is quick to encourage other companies to employ older workers, offering the following advice: “Assess each person on their merits. Meet them, discuss what they’ve done in their life – getting to know them will give you good insight as to how they will approach a job. Be smart and realise older workers want and need to work.”
“With unemployment low, it comes down to matching the skills you require for a job that needs to be filled. Age should not be a factor, as long as the person is physically and mentally well.
She ends: “Give older workers the opportunity to prove themselves. You might just get a nice surprise.”
Germany recently lowered its retirement age from 65 to 63 for longtime workers, a move Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government says is aimed at easing the burden on older Germans in the workforce.
But the decision is not popular with German businesses or with governments in struggling eurozone countries, which accuse German officials of hypocrisy. They say it’s wrong for Germany to demand sweeping cuts in their countries while Merkel’s government beefs up benefits at home.
And that’s in contrast to the U.S., too, where benefits for early retirement at age 62 have steadily decreased and the retirement age has been steadily increasing from 65 to 67.
So far, more than 50,000 German workers have applied for the new chance to retire two years early. Among them is Robert Buerger from Stuttgart.
The one-time auto body assembler at Daimler-Benz who now heads his union shop says he will have worked 48 years when he turns 63, and that he’s earned the right to start a new chapter in his life.
“I love to travel, especially in a motor home. And naturally I’m looking forward to having the freedom to decide how I spend my time,” he says.
The German government estimates some 240,000 people are eligible for early retirement under the new law.
Labor Minister Andrea Nahles called it a matter of justice for people who’ve worked nonstop since their late teens and paid into the state pension system for at least 45 years.
Like Buerger, most of those eligible to retire early have demanding physical jobs.
But the new retirement package their government is rewarding them with isn’t cheap. German officials estimate it will cost $6 billion this year, a figure that will jump to $15 billion per year by 2030.
And it’s not just the German taxpayer who will feel the pinch. Businesses will also suffer, says Judith Roeder. She is deputy managing director of the Middle Class Federation, which represents some 230,000 medium-sized businesses, one-quarter of which expect to lose workers because of the new law.
Roeder says besides increasing what employers and employees pay into the pension system, the new law makes a growing shortage of experienced workers in Germany much worse.
That’s because the population of Germany is rapidly aging, and there simply aren’t enough young people to replace retirees.
Critics accuse the government of playing politics. They point out that Merkel has pushed for an increase in the overall retirement age. But in this case, her government agreed to lower it for one class of workers at the request of the Social Democrats who joined her government and are seeking to reward their voter base.
Early retirement will not even benefit disabled and impoverished older workers who need it most, Roeder explains. They haven’t worked enough years to qualify and can’t afford to quit because early retirement would reduce their pensions, she adds.
Supporters of early retirement, like Hans-Juergen Urban, an executive board member of Germany’s Industrial Union of Metal Workers, says younger workers are also criticizing the new law.
Urban says that’s because the government has signaled that it plans to gradually raise the overall retirement age to 67. When that happens, they say, the new early retirement age of 63 will inevitably be increased to 65.
Back in Stuttgart, Buerger waves off concerns about the early retirement law driving a wedge between the generations.
He says he’s talked about it with younger workers at his plant — including one of his sons — and that they support the new law.
Buerger says younger employees are hungry for the chance to move up the career ladder as more seasoned workers like him leave.
We need to encourage people of all ages to start businesses.
Heavy job losses in manufacturing and aviation this year – and more to come – will require “out-of-the-box” thinking by governments to help displaced workers. The usual response, reskilling older workers, will not be enough as the population ages.
With real foresight, Federal and State governments could develop policy to encourage a sharp increase in “seniorpreneurship” – those aged over 50 starting a business that aspires for growth, not just a lifestyle for its owner.
Done well, we could help some older workers create their next job, out of necessity, or to pursue an opportunity.
Governments are fooling themselves if they try to help all displaced older workers through traditional thinking. Although important, re-training programs will not stem the tide of unemployed older workers seeking full- or part-time jobs.
Yes, high-profile job losses in the car industry and at Qantas are tiny in the scheme of Australia’s vast labour market. But where will tens of thousands of new jobs for older workers magically appear? What proportion of retrenched older workers find equivalent full-time employment?
The supply of older people seeking work will increase as the population ages, and as retirement savings run out. Australia’s fastest-growing age group is now 65 and over, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
And what of demand for older workers? Will more Australian companies prematurely – and stupidly – throw older workers on the scrapheap as they slash costs?
Will age discrimination become more entrenched as big companies favour cheaper, younger workers over older workers, and sack people earlier in their career?
You bet it will.
We cannot rely only on displaced older workers applying for a new job. Some must be capable of creating their next job. The foundation is there if governments realise the potential of seniorpreneurship to address a small piece of the jobs puzzle for older workers.
I know what you’re thinking: most redundant older workers have no interest in starting a venture. They just want a job to pay the bills. Fair enough. However, I’d argue a lack of awareness about seniorpreneurship, and poor policy settings to encourage it, limit the potential.
Some will argue “seniors” and “entrepreneurship” do not mix – that start-up entrepreneurship is a young person’s game: smart, creative, innovative, technology savvy twenty-and thirtysomethings who take big risks and have time to recover from failure.
In theory, senior entrepreneurs have less capacity for risk. Their savings must finance retirement, not a new venture. Declining health, weaker motivation and less understanding of technology are potential obstacles.
What rubbish! It’s wrong to suggest over-50s cannot or should not engage in start-up entrepreneurship. Nobody should be defined by their age – I know some seventy-year-olds who are healthier and more motivated than people half their age. And how many 60-year-old even think of themselves as ‘seniors’ in retirement these days?
Overseas research has found seniorpreneurs are more capable of starting and managing a venture than their younger peers. Their experience, networks and greater resources are huge advantages.
Its particularly suits older people leaving the workforce now – or a few years out of it – before work skills and personal networks fade. It’s why governments must act on this topic now.
We need to know more about seniorpreneurship. There is little local academic research on the topic in Australia and barely any dedicated policies. The closest is probably the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) and its course for socially disadvantaged older people.
Swinburne University entrepreneurship researcher Dr Alex Maritz is among the few to have researched the benefits of seniorpreneurship in Australia.
Maritz has written an important whitepaper on the topic: Senior Entrepreneurship in Australia: Active Ageing and Extending Workforce Lives and has called on governments to foster a culture of seniorpreneurship.
His paper should be mandatory reading for politicians worried about the implications of an aging workforce, and searching for answers to help displaced older workers.
“Australia has a significant lack of entrepreneurship policy and initiatives aimed at the 50-plus market, which provides opportunity to enhance this activity even further,” says Maritz. “To the best of our knowledge, there are no empirical studies in Australia regarding this phenomenon.”
That is a shame. As Maritz notes, other developed economies are showing greater interest in developing policies to help senior entrepreneurs.
Yet again, they are leaving Australia behind in their thinking on the economic and community benefits of entrepreneurship, and on its potential to help displaced older workers – and those who voluntarily leave work to pursue a business opportunity.
Drawing on the excellent OECD 2013 report on senior entrepreneurship, and on the work of offshore researchers, Maritz makes several preliminary recommendations on policy interventions:
– “Creating positive awareness of entrepreneurship as a late-career option with the aim of educating and training senior entrepreneurs, as well as different stakeholder groups, to remove negative age or gender bias as a potential barrier to senior entrepreneurship.
– Enhancing entrepreneurial intentions and self-belief in the 50-plus age-group.
– Developing entrepreneurship education and training specific to the needs of senior entrepreneurs.
– Avoiding jargon in communication and information and the way procedures and regulations are communicated and targeted to this age group.
– Training mentors, facilitators and enterprise support officials in appropriate communication skills; acknowledging older entrepreneurs’ experience and skills; and avoiding unnecessary red tape.
– Encouraging skilled and experienced older individuals to participate in mentorship and coaching activities. They often have the human and social capital, business experience, empathy and skills to add significant value to entrepreneurs, while being senior entrepreneurs themselves.
– Ensuring start-up financing schemes do not discriminate against older entrepreneurs.
– Reviewing regulations relating to tax systems and social benefit systems to ensure they do not set a disincentive to senior entrepreneurship.
– Legislative support mechanisms for start-up senior entrepreneurs.”
Maritz stresses his research is in an exploratory phase; the recommendations are not yet supported by empirical research, given the lack of study on this topic.
But it is huge step in the right direction. If his paper gets more people thinking about seniorpreneurship – and politicians acting through policy – Australia will start to unlock a vast asset: the potential of older workers to create, innovate and build wealth for themselves and the community, by starting a venture.
What do you think? Should Australia foster a culture of seniorpreneurship, and if so, how?
– Tony Featherstone is a part-time lecturer in entrepreneurship and innovation at Swinburne University.
This week’s unemployment data caused quite a stir, with some observers making a hasty link between the number of Australians joining the jobless queues, and the number of migrants still pouring into the country.
Monash demographer Bob Birrell led the charge, arguing in the Fairfax press that “… the number of overseas-born persons aged 15 plus in Australia, who arrived since the beginning of 2011, was around 709,000. Most of these people are job hungry.
“According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Force Survey, 380,000 of these recent arrivals were employed as of May 2014. Over the same three years, the net growth in jobs in Australia is estimated by the ABS to have been only 400,000.
“This means that these recent overseas-born arrivals have taken almost all of the net growth in jobs over this period. They are doing so at the expense of Australian-born and overseas-born residents who arrived in Australia before 2011.”
Yikes. Pull up the drawbridge. Sound the alarms.
Well not quite. Drawing a direct link between migration and jobless numbers is far more problematic than that.
The motivation for Birrell’s line of attack is clear, and quite worthy – namely that we have a youth unemployment crisis, and an under-employment crisis more generally, with welfare benefits putting an increasing burden on the federal budget.
All quite true. All very alarming.
However the matching up of the jobless numbers with the immigration numbers paints a false picture.
More importantly, this kind of assertion can easily be mis-used by populist political forces to stir unrest in the community and unfairly paint migrants as a burden on the economy when they are nothing of the kind.
The logical disconnect is found when one considers what kinds of job openings exist, where they are located and the willingness of ‘pre-2011’ Australians (to use Birrell’s distinction) to take them.
The two charts below reveal a lot about the distribution of work around the country, and the trends in the amount of work available overall since the beginning of phase one of the GFC in late 2007. (Note that the final two quarters of the second chart rely on population estimates, as the ABS has not yet published March and June 2014 figures).
The first chart shows only how the gross number of hours worked in each state has grown in the past seven years. WA seems to be romping along, just ahead of the NT, with both being well ahead of the clustered Queensland, Victoria and NSW.
However, this picture is misleading, as it does not capture population movements. WA’s population, for instance. has grown an astonishing 21 per cent in seven years, which means its nation-beating growth in hours worked is spread across a population that is 445,000 people larger.
The second chart, therefore, shows how the number of hours of work available averages out over a state’s population. Tasmania, as will surprise few, has a far lower number of hours worked per resident each month (60 hours) compared with WA (82 hours).
That’s not surprising as WA is still enjoying the jobs created by the construction phase of the resources boom (though that will moderate in the months and years ahead).
Most interesting, however, is what Tasmania was doing just three years ago when its average hours worked per resident was continuing to slide – from about 65 hours at the start of the GFC to 62.5 hours in April 2011.
Even without taking population movements into account, the total monthly hours-worked figure (see first chart) showed no increase through the four years of GFC.
So what was the Tasmanian government doing at that time? It was, in fact, running roadshows around recession-ravaged Ireland, hoping to recruit a range of skilled workers to start a new life in the Apple Isle.
As Business Spectator reported at the time, Tasmania was looking for workers in “medical and allied health, engineering, hospitality, urban and regional planning, agricultural science and metal fabrication and trades such as automotive mechanics, plumbing and electrical”.
Were they mad? Surely they could have recruited thousands of such workers from Melbourne, Sydney or Perth?
Angela Chan, national president of the Migration Institute of Australia says that’s just not true. Employers in regional and remote Australia find it extremely difficult to fill positions with workers who have families, homes and lives in our capital cities – cities that house the unusually high figure of 85 per cent of our population.
MIA is the umbrella group for migration agents in Australia, so there is an element of “they would say that wouldn’t they” – especially as Scott Morrison begins investigations into how migration visas have been misused or rorted in the past few years.
However, the explanation Chan gives gels exactly with stories many regionally-based MPs have told this columnist over the years – it is sometimes easier to employ Korean workers or recently arrived refugees in Alice Springs hospitality jobs than Australians. Or to employ Iraqis to pick fruit in Shepparton, for instance.
The allure of such roles for established Australians is just not there – as evidenced by the Gillard government’s rather fruitless attempts to coax youngsters out of capital cities with bonuses and relocation payments.
What makes a direct link of migration and jobless numbers most worrying, according to Chan, is that towns that don’t have medical staff, accountants, engineers or other skilled workers are hobbled economically – the businesses that would otherwise employ the low-skilled, or even many other classes of skilled workers, don’t get going.
Viewed in this context, it can be argued both that we have a huge unemployment problem to solve, and that it will only be made worse by choking off skilled migrants who are just as prepared to set up house in Bendigo or Mount Gambier as Melbourne or Adelaide.
That is not to argue the all skilled migrants are wanted or needed – just that there are good reasons to keep the flow higher than many would assume in hard times (An awkward time to mention migration, July 8).
The government will have a hard time explaining that to voters, however, as the body set up to advise on such subtleties, the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency, was one of the first agencies it scrapped on coming to power.
But there is a lot more to the migration-jobs nexus than meets the eye.
Author: Susan Ryan
Susan Ryan, Age Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, calls on insurers to design new, accessible and affordable products tailored to older Australians.
Whether they’re contributing to the workforce, volunteering their time, or travelling the world, older Australians are an active bunch and increasingly so. Yet all these activities may involve risk, and with risk comes the potential need for insurance.
In my role as Age Discrimination Commissioner, I hear many stories from older Australians who have had trouble securing affordable insurance or finding any suitable insurance product at all. A lack of insurance has limiting and negative effects for older Australians.
Income protection insurance often cuts out at age 65, yet many older Australians are capable and want to work well beyond that age.
It was announced in the recent budget that by 2035, Australians will not be eligible for the age pension until they turn 70, so working to that age will become the reality for many. Also, organisations that rely on volunteers buy group insurance, but it may not cover older volunteers. Travel insurance premiums increase with age, but it’s important that they are not so prohibitively high that older Australians would be tempted to travel uninsured.
Failing to provide insurance to older people or charging higher premiums is not necessarily unlawful discrimination. The Age Discrimination Act, which is the general protection that all people have against discrimination on the basis of age, has an exception for insurance. Insurers can discriminate based on age as long as the difference in treatment is based on actuarial or statistical data, or is otherwise reasonable.
Despite this exception, I have been making the case to the insurance industry that better, more accessible information about available insurance products should be provided. In addition, I can see a strong business case to be made to insurers to design new products that are tailored to seniors, and are accessible and affordable.
While the industry is considering these messages, the voice of older Australians who themselves are seeking a good deal on insurance products add to my advocacy. Older Australians can shop around for insurance and find the best product available to them.
Finally, if you think you have been discriminated against by an insurer, you are still able to make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission, who can investigate and attempt to resolve your complaint.
You can get further information by calling 1300 656 419 or visit the Australian Human Rights Commission website.