Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

The case for hiring older workers

Jakkii says: This is an older piece (from 2019) that came across my Twitter feed the other day, and it piqued my interest immediately. Ageism is an ongoing issue in my view, and it’s something I think we need to both be conscious of and actively work to combat – just like any other ‘ism’ based on bias, prejudice, and/or stereotyping.

In the article, the authors discuss the pervasive view in corporate America that age is a competitive disadvantage – a view I have no trouble believing would also be found to be pervasive in Australia, as well. I didn’t do a deep dive on competitive advantage/disadvantage, but there is certainly a policy view – as described in the background of the CEPAR Industry Report in 2019 – that with an ageing population, increasing work participation rates amongst those aged 50-69 could raise GDP and thus contribute positively to the Australian economy.

A quick google did turn up a number of related findings around age discrimination in the workplace in Australia. One survey from 2015 found over a quarter of Australians aged 50+ had experienced some form of work-related age discrimination. In 2018, the AHRC & AHRI’s ‘Employing Older Workers’ report found that almost 30% of respondent organisations were reluctant to hire someone over a certain age, with the majority of them having that age be as young as 50. 50! In a time when the average life expectancy for an Australian is in the 80s and living to your 90s or even making 100 isn’t at all out of the ordinary, to think people are too old to hire when they’re as young as 50 seems incredibly shortsighted, needlessly narrowing your talent pool based on little more than bias and assumptions.

Putting aside issues of discrimination for a moment, there are competitive reasons to take more proactive approaches to address age bias in our workplaces. As the authors of this piece discuss, our population is ageing while our birth rates have declined. While immigration can make up some of the difference, we collectively will be better served by hiring more older workers, and by rethinking our beliefs about when someone should retire. Retirement doesn’t necessarily translate to positive health outcomes, and not just because we’re ageing, but because we have stopped working.

Many people, particularly those who have enjoyed long and meaningful careers, do like to work. In the wise words of Stephen Hawking: “Work gives you meaning and purpose, and life is empty without it.”

And it’s not just about the future and that projections show that the population over age 64 will grow from around 16% now to about 25% by 2047 (as our overall population grows, too, projected to be over 28 million by the same time). It’s about now as well – the labour shortages we’ve recently seen (and felt) in many industries could be mitigated at least somewhat by hiring more older workers, as ANZ’s CEO Shayne Elliot suggested in 2021.

If we’re going to overcome age discrimination in our organisations, we need to take action. Your organisation may be one that already has plans in place and takes action to address age-based bias in hiring, firing and promoting, or perhaps it’s not something considered an imperative in your workplace and your diversity, equity and inclusion efforts are focused elsewhere. Either way, you may find some useful, actionable suggestions in this article that you can implement, even at a team level, and so I highly recommend a review of the list and some time to reflect on what might work for you, your team, and your organisation.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about age discrimination and how this is (or isn’t!) being addressed in your workplace. Get in touch and let’s chat!

Read: https://hbr.org/2019/09/the-case-for-hiring-older-workers

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