How hiring older workers is good for business

SmartCompany, June 7, 2017

Australians are living longer and staying in the workforce. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the increase in the overall labour force participation rate is partly because of the increased participation of mature-age Australians.

An AIHW analysis of the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the annual average participation rate for Australians aged 55-64 rose from 43 per cent in 1992 to 64 per cent in 2014, while the rate for Australians aged 65-69 rose from 10 per cent to 12 per cent for the same period.

There are many benefits associated with older workers (aged 50 and over) remaining in employment, AIHW reports. On the worker’s side, paid employment enables them to prepare for retirement, and studies have also shown the overall benefits of work to people’s health.

Find out how the Australian Government is helping businesses who support over 50s through jobactive Restart.

In the workplace, maintaining workers of different ages promotes diversity of knowledge and skills; plus, there are societal benefits.

Whatever the reason for working later, some employers like a mature age workforce.

Lisa Boland, owner of home and electrical retail store Living Quarters, says a mix of ages in her team of 10 is healthy for business.

“It is good to have both younger and older as both bring something different to the dynamics. However, when we hire someone, we are looking for the right person and that usually is someone with experience in retail, as it costs us less time and money to train them. They can also enable us to offer better customer service as they have a deeper product knowledge and can work more efficiently.”

For Darren Lee, owner of All Kinds of Blinds, hiring a mature-age person can also provide a work-life balance for both worker and boss.

“With older workers there comes reliability, a good work ethic and flexibility,” Lee says.

His most-recent hire, who is 58, has no experience in window furnishing but it was a desire to work on a flexible basis that made him an attractive option.

Hiring older workers is not new to Lee – a previous employee of his retired at 68 after being hired in his 50s, offering years of service and experience to the business.

“Our new person is learning and we provide training, but it’s not just about that. It’s also about having people skills and being able to think proactively. He has another part-time job and I am flexible so if he is offered hours in his other position I can accommodate him, unless it is urgent.”

He agrees with Boland that a mix of age groups can be good for business. “Being open to older workers can make your business more attractive, but it depends on the business you are in and if older people want to work in your environment,” he says.

“With my business, it suits me to want to have someone on a part-time basis. My previous person was fantastic; he was past retirement age but just wanted to work. It gave him something to do and additional income and it helped me out, as well, for him to be on call.”

For Boland, having the right mature-age worker can also provide learning opportunities for fellow staff. Employee Colin recently retired at 65, eight years after joining her team.

“When we hired Colin, he had been working at another electrical store for 40 years,” she says. “We could not pass up the opportunity to utilise that kind of extensive knowledge and experience. He was a wealth of knowledge to all of us. He also gave our workplace a good balance.”