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  • Writer's pictureEdwin and George

Wine and Workforces: The Longevity Dividend and Mature-Age Worker Engagement

"Wisdom doesn't automatically come with old age. Nothing does - except wrinkles. It's true, some wines improve with age. But only if the grapes were good in the first place." - Abigail Van Buren

The new 2018 Deloitte Human Capital Trends report has arrived. The subjects discussed this year include: people analytics, employee well-being and team structured organisations.

There’s one article though we particularly like - ‘The longevity dividend: work in an era of 100-years lives.’ It’s all about how companies will have to retain (and recruit) older workers to get the numbers and quality of staff they’ll need.

We like the article because we feel that age discrimination in the workplace doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

The authors write:

‘People are living longer and organisations are shifting their attitude towards older workers as a result. Organisations that can turn advancing workers into an asset could gain a competitive advantage.’

The demographics are compelling.

With falling birth rates and longer lives, the proportion of older people in the workplace (55-onwards) is on the way up.

That’s good because in Australia, people hitting 55 today have almost half their adult lives ahead of them. They need work for financial and social reasons and they bring a lot of qualities to the office. The older worker represents a ‘proven and committed resource with more knowledge, wisdom and life experience’ (2018 Human Capital Trends).

A recent study by PWC shows that Nordic countries have the highest proportion of over-55s in work (Sweden has 75%). At 62%, Australia ranks 12th out of 34.

If Australia could get more people aged over 55 in employment up to the levels seen in Sweden, GDP would increase by 4.5%.

In another recent survey (the Australian Institute of Company Directors), 37% of respondents believe that the retirement of older workers will have a negative impact on their business in the next five-years. It’s one of their highest concerns. So, companies are starting to act.

For example, Westpac has a range of policies in place to support older workers. These include grandparental leave where grandparents can take up to 52-weeks unpaid leave to be the child's primary caregiver up to their second birthday.

Granted, as our opening quote suggests, the quality of the candidate (regardless of age) is what is important and companies are missing out by not having the right attraction and retention strategies for older workers.

Here are some other ways by which companies are making it easier for older workers to stay on:

  • Expanding training programmes to support older worker; for example, technology classes

  • Encouraging later retirement through financial incentives – bonuses or one-off payments

  • Phasing-in retirement – letting people retire gradually and helping them proactively plan how they reduce their days / hours

  • Tightening internal practices around age discrimination; for example, emphasising the subject in interview training or highlighting common stereotypes (for example, see video by University of South Australia below)

  • Encouraging take-up of employee wellness schemes by older workers

  • Recognising the need for flexibility around working hours and amount of time worked

  • Allowing older workers to take sabbaticals – to undertake travelling, spend time with family or to work on a domestic project

  • Keeping retirees on the books in case of need – paying a retainer or continuing with some perks - to call them up if work demand is high

  • Asking older workers to take on extra responsibility by helping coach and mentor younger staff.


Here’s a final thought

Ronald Reagan ran for President at the age of 73. In the 1984 Presidential debate with Walter Mondale, before the election, Reagan was asked if his age was a disadvantage.

His response is surely one of the greatest ‘put downs’ in the history of the debates.

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