Monday, September 21st, 2015

The number of Australians aged 65 and over is projected to more than double by 2055. As our population ages and workforce shrinks, there are increasingly calls for businesses to tap into its ‘grey army’ – the often under-utilised cohort of skilled Australians aged 50 and over.

Recently, a new report commissioned by the Australian Human Rights Commission show more than a quarter of Australians aged 50 and over reported experiencing some form of age discrimination in the workplace during the past two years. This figure increases for those aged 55 to 64. And when managers were asked if they factored age into their decision-making, a third responded they did.

As any successful business owner will tell you, the key to a well oiled and financially stable establishment lies in its greatest asset – its people.

The loss of knowledge as senior and experienced workers retires impacts organisations. When older workers are overlooked, it’s the employers who miss out. Business leaders and HR Directors need to understand the key to staying viable and successful is to develop workplace practices that will help you attract and retain older employees.

Here are just a few benefits that mature-age workers can bring to your organisation:

  1. Knowledge: older workers have often accumulated a wealth of knowledge, experience and skills during their time in the workforce, which are valuable assets to business
  2. Desirable traits: they are generally highly dependable and committed with more life experience and wisdom
  3. Established networks and external experiences: assets which also add value to business
  4. Workplace training and mentoring: mature-age workers’ wealth of knowledge and experience are valuable resources in workplace training and mentoring programs, helping businesses save costs on staff development and knowledge transfer
  5. Matching profiles with customer base: as the population ages, mature age employees will increasingly reflect the profiles of your customer base, allowing them to better empathise with and meet the needs of customers.

There needs to be a shift in attitude and a push by business leaders and HR Directors to hire and retain older workers. Part two of this post will cover some strategies that businesses can employ to encourage workers over the age of 50 to work beyond the traditional age of retirement.

Recognising the value skilled workers aged 50 and over can bring is only the first step in creating a sustainable workforce. Business leaders and HR Directors also need to employ appropriate strategies and practices to help them attract and retain this cohort of older workers and encourage them to work beyond the traditional age of retirement. Here are some strategies below:

  1. Ensure there are age-friendly policies and practices in place in your organisation to combat stereotyping and discrimination against older employees
  1. Provide flexible work options. Unlike younger employees, many older workers are at a stage in their lives where they have commitments around extended family and caring for others. Catering to their changing lifestyle needs can encourage older workers to stay in the workforce longer.Flexible work arrangements can be offered in a variety of forms, some of which include: shifting to part-time position or job-sharing; flexible work hours adjusted to accommodate older workers’ family commitments; working from home; and working as consultant after retirement.
  2. Work with your mature-age employees to establish a tailored phased-retirement plan and reduce their working time and workload in a staggered approach over an agreed period.
  3. Offer your older employees tailored training and up-skilling to help them sustain workplace competencies to meet the requirements of the workplace and keep up with the pace of change.
  1. Give your valued mature-age employees the option of transferring to a role with fewer responsibilities and reduced pay can help keep them in the workforce longer and retain vital corporate knowledge and skills.

As Australia’s labour pool shrinks, the importance of engaging and retaining older skilled workers becomes an increasingly pressing priority.

Business leaders need to recognise the value and potential its ‘grey army’ can offer and then put in place appropriate strategies to tap into this under-utilised resource. If not, our future productivity will likely suffer.

Samuel Day is Managing Director of Happening People, which provides organisational development strategies and people management consulting to Australia’s leading businesses and executive leaders. For more people management tips, visit

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Happening People

HAPPENING PEOPLE was founded by Samuel Day in 1996. Since that time it consulted with 25% of Australia's Top 100 companies over the past 15 years. Today more than 1 in every 500 working Australians has attended a Happening People corporate training program in topics such as; Solutions Selling Skills, Customer Service, Performance Management and Leadership.

Happening People helps clients take control of their performance and that of their people by understanding the needs of the client and tailoring a specific learning program to achieve greater performance.

More information is available at

Samuel Day
P: 61 412228124


leadership, people performance, mature workers



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