New research by Australia’s largest employment services provider, MAX Solutions, has revealed that 30% of employers are reluctant to hire older workers, despite employers identifying a range of essential workplace skills at which older workers tend to excel compared with younger peers.
As our population ages, ensuring the wellbeing and success of older Australians in the workforce is a crucial challenge for the nation as mature-age jobseekers remain over-represented in those looking for work.
People aged 55-64 are the largest unemployed group currently on JobSeeker payments. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians aged 50-64 make up approximately 17.8% of our population, yet they represent 28% of MAX’s unemployment figures.
“One of the biggest challenges amongst mature-age Australians is a lack of self-confidence.
We often see older candidates being too modest at the interview stage or uncertain about how their previous skills are transferable to a different industry or position.
However, we know first-hand that they bring significant value to the workplace and are highly adaptable.”
In fact, mature-age workers were identified by employers as being more adept at a range of vital workplace skills compared with their younger peers, including dispute resolution (57%), mediation (55%) and managing others (55%).
‘Wealth of experience’ is considered the main benefit of mature-age workers by 60% of employers, followed by ‘maturity and stability’ (48%), and ‘reliability and dependability’ (43%).
Whilst digital literacy is often perceived as a challenge for mature-age workers, 7 in 10 employers are of the opinion that older workers learn new digital and IT skills as quickly or more quickly than they would expect. Employers should make hiring decisions on the assumption that mature age workers will most likely have, or be able to develop, the necessary skills in this area.
In order to capitalise on the benefits that mature age and older workers can bring to a workplace, employers must move their actions from policy to practice. While 75% of employers surveyed have a diversity and inclusion policy, only 40% are actively taking steps to attract and retain older workers.
Ian Yates, Chief Executive at The Council on the Ageing (COTA), said: “This important report makes great recommendations that both employers and employees can take to improve the employment outcomes for mature-age workers. The 62% of employers surveyed who have or are considering changes to accommodate older workers show that small actions can make a vast improvement in finding and retaining the right workforce.
“Adding ‘mature age workers’ to an organisation’s diversity and inclusion policies will help ensure employers are regularly thinking about what they can do to attract and retain older workers into their teams. Even small businesses can make a change by removing Date of Birth from job application forms.”
Employers believe the biggest challenge for older workers is fixed ideas about ways of working (61%), while job candidates believe employers have low awareness or low value of mature workers’ experience and skills (56%).
Ms Lamb commented: “There is a clear mismatch between how job candidates and employers view the challenges that mature-age Australians face in the workplace. We must understand those differences in order to overcome them. We need to work together to ensure both older workers and employers are prepared to thrive in the future and be better prepared for Australia’s ageing workforce.”
Martin Smith of Bateman’s Bay, aged 56, had a history of low-skilled work and long periods of unemployment. Supported by MAX Solutions, Martin achieved welding and powder coating qualifications and is now a highly skilled and valued team member working at manufacturing company Vision Railings and Glass.
Commenting on what finding a job means to him, Martin said: “It’s given me normality. I have a nice home. I recently bought a car. One thing I found when I didn’t have a job was when someone walks up to you on the street and says ‘What do you do for a living?’ and you say ‘Oh, I’m unemployed,’ you feel like crap. Just having a job makes you feel about six inches taller. Normality is a big thing. Having food on the table, money in my pocket – that’s a big bonus.”
The research consisted of a survey of 500 Australian employers (conducted by independent research provider Decibel) and a survey of MAX Solutions’ own mature-age customers, conducted by MAX.