Further, 90 per cent of mature employees over the age of 65 say they actively try to develop their capabilities.
The findings demonstrate the value of older workers to employers and highlight the challenges facing companies in ensuring they maintain age diversity, given that the same study also found that older workers are more likely to be discriminated against, the study’s authors argue.
“Older workers have wisdom and knowledge. They are used to change. They have been through numerous restructures. They learn to just get on an do it,” says Sharon Parker, professor of organisational behaviour at Curtin University Future of Work Institute, who co-authored the report with Marian Baird of University of Sydney Business School.
“[Older workers] are a powerful asset for an organisation. If you make full use of the talent of your whole workforce, you are much more likely to gain a competitive advantage and be more effective,” Parker says.
But the research suggests companies are failing to embrace age diversity.
Nearly one fifth of workers aged between 55 and 64 suggest their company discriminates on the basis of age in recruitment and selection, and only two in five workers in that age bracket report that workers have access to training and skills upgrades regardless of age.
Nearly 80 per cent of women over the age of 65 report having been treated unfairly at work because of their age, and older workers are far more likely than their younger colleagues to have had an application for flexible work arrangements declined.
The report finds that failure to create an inclusive work environment is likely to lead to older workers being less engaged and decide to leave their organisation early.
The lesson for companies is to find ways to harness their whole talent pool, Parker argues.
The researchers say companies need to “include, individualise and integrate” mature workers.
Companies must make older people feel included in the workforce by making training and development available to staff of all ages and stamping out biases during the recruitment process.
Companies need to understand that as people age, they change physically, mentally and psychologically, but not all at the same rate. Enabling more mature workers to work part-time or buy extra leave might help some. Others might benefit from flexible work hours.
“Significant caring responsibilities, such as the need to care for elderly parents or grandparenting responsibilities, have been identified as a key driver for mature employees to consider early retirement,” Baird says.
Companies also need to be mindful that older employees tend to value autonomy and control over what they do.
Lastly, companies should ensure their workplace is integrated. Mentoring and reverse mentoring programs can help in this respect, says Parker, as can educating staff about stereotypes and providing sufficient support to managers so they can incorporate flexible working practices successfully.