Older workers summit: 24 Feb


An audience that ranged across the age spectrum gathered in Sydney at the invitation of AHRI and the Australian Human Rights Commission to discuss participation of older Australians in the workforce.

It was appropriate that the Older Australians At Work summit was a cross-generational event as – more than one speaker noted – inclusion and promotion of older workers in the workforce requires cross-generational support.

John Daley, CEO of Grattan Institute and demographic commentator and KPMG Partner, Bernard Salt set the backdrop for discussion with revealing data about the attitudes and motivations of older workers – as well as the budgetary challenges facing the Government if they fail to encourage mature-age workers to stay or return to the workforce.

Focusing on the supply side of the equation, Daley asked: How much do older workers want to work? Clearly, the fiscal incentives aren’t there. Grattan data reveals that people over 65 are paying less tax than they did 20 years ago partly because of changes to superannuation, while government spending on older people has risen dramatically, particularly in the pensions, health and aged care sectors.

As often stated, one problem is the greater number of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age and leaving the workforce than young people entering it. Bernard Salt agreed with Daley that this may be a matter of choice rather than discrimination against older workers. He vividly detailed the mindset of a Boomer generation who, after working and saving throughout their lives, have a sense of entitlement about what they feel is due to them in retirement.

But this is only one side of the coin. Many mature-age workers feel retirement is their only option and unless employers have conversations with their older workers about their needs and motivations, they risk losing valuable skills and knowledge, says Alison Monroe, CEO of SageCo.

From a panel discussion of leading HR professionals came stories of older workers who, their companies had discovered, wanted to remain useful, active and employed – while enjoying greater flexibility. Linda Redfearn, head of HR at Blackmores, Niki Kesoglou, group head of diversity and inclusion, QBE Insurance and Kate Dee (FAHRI), GM talent, culture and leadership at NAB talked about banishing stereotypes and not assuming that older workers always wanted to retire.

Kesoglou said QBE had begun by reviewing its talent management policies and asking questions about how to retain critical knowledge. Combining that with a new, flexible work policy led the company to explore further what motivated and drove their mature-age workforce.

All three businesses initiated conversations – in focus groups and through surveys – and collected data to build a story of their ageing workforce. NAB’s Kate Dee said the company’s approach was holistic, having discussions with mature-age workers as individuals, thinking about their health, relationships and financial situation. Blackmore’s approach was similar, helping employees to plan the latter part of their careers and transition to retirement. QBE’s Envisage program also began slowly with small interested groups but, Kesoglou remarked, as word spread throughout the company, tickets to attend were “snapped up quicker than for a Katy Perry concert”.

Moving from strategy to action, said Dee, “depended on having NAB’s executive sponsorship from the outset and then ensuring people leaders were skilled in having those conversations with mature age workers”. She was also pleased that establishing projects around the retention of mature age workers “had given her the opportunity to talk in front of leadership teams”.

Kesoglou summed up the belief among senior management: “From a workplace planning strategy, it’s critical to the future success of the business to have mature-aged workers engaged.”

For more on the topic of inclusion in the workplace attend the AHRI Inclusion and Diversity Conference, taking place in Sydney in May. Find out more

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9 Comments On "Older workers summit: 24 Feb"

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Judy Higgins - www.olderworkers.com.au
Judy Higgins - www.olderworkers.com.au
We are Australia’s only national job board specifically for over 45’s and are pleased to see these conversations continuing. We have over 35,000 registered jobseekers (growing daily) and many of them are desperate for work, many have all but given up and others have been unemployed, despite having good skills, for years. The Restart program has not had the positive impact the Government had hoped (rarely do these type of incentives) and does not include all workers over the age of 50. The Corporate Champions program has had its impact largely on retaining older workers so for older jobseekers offered… Read more »
David Wilson CAHRI
Two examples of Mature Age Worker Initiatives: 1. A well known blue chip company in the Telco infrastructure services industry had an Apprentice completion rate of less than 60%. When an”old bloke” Supervisor / Mentor was appointed to coach and council on a part time basis the retention rate hit a 98%. A considerable overall cost saving and value add. 2. The HR cycle of an international construction firm added “legacy” to the “Attract, recruit, retain/develop, transition to retire” cycle) They actively nurture a pool of their retirees (and transition to retire) as “temps” to call upon to deal with… Read more »
sue rayson-hall
I would like to know just how old the key note speakers and the panel are. They have not idea about older Australians wanting to work. To lump them into the baby boomer era is right but the reasons why people want and need to work. Many older people need to work to support themselves as they either have not had the opportunity to put enough away for retirement or they have lost money for a variety of reasons including the GFC. Ther are also the older people who enjoy the interaction that working gives them, them are fit and… Read more »
David Wilson CAHRI
I firmly believe the only way corporate Australia will pay due attention to mature age workers is through the establishment of Affirmative Action Agency for Mature Age Workers. A simple and inexpensive task for Government to add to EOWA reporting. Corporates need to explain their hiring and retrenchment patterns and be named and shamed for never hiring anyone over 50. The stereotype part time worker of today is usually a younger employee transitioning from parental leave rather than a mature aged worker transitioning to retirement. Many maternity leave replacements are hired in the image of the maternity leaver. What a… Read more »
Errol Phillips
Was there any discussion about removing barriers to reengaging with older workers who have been lost through redundancy? With Government wanting us to work until where 70, what real incentives and support is given to an employer to employ older workers and change the attitudes of hiring managers that are often much younger? If you’re not in a qualified asset short service profession (lawyers, accountants and medical) the only jobs being promoted for older workers are for low skilled roles and unattractive shifts (bus drivers, shop assistants, traffic control and security). We want to work and retain our dignity by… Read more »
Jedi Karanja

I agree with Errol and other participants – we must value the accumulated knowledge, relationships, experience and connection that the older workforce brings to the workforce and organisations. If we value this as much as we should (valuable asset), why do we need any other incentive to actively and meaningfully engage the older workforce – as paid or unpaid workers? Its great we are having these conversations.

More on HRM

Older workers summit: 24 Feb


An audience that ranged across the age spectrum gathered in Sydney at the invitation of AHRI and the Australian Human Rights Commission to discuss participation of older Australians in the workforce.

It was appropriate that the Older Australians At Work summit was a cross-generational event as – more than one speaker noted – inclusion and promotion of older workers in the workforce requires cross-generational support.

John Daley, CEO of Grattan Institute and demographic commentator and KPMG Partner, Bernard Salt set the backdrop for discussion with revealing data about the attitudes and motivations of older workers – as well as the budgetary challenges facing the Government if they fail to encourage mature-age workers to stay or return to the workforce.

Focusing on the supply side of the equation, Daley asked: How much do older workers want to work? Clearly, the fiscal incentives aren’t there. Grattan data reveals that people over 65 are paying less tax than they did 20 years ago partly because of changes to superannuation, while government spending on older people has risen dramatically, particularly in the pensions, health and aged care sectors.

As often stated, one problem is the greater number of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age and leaving the workforce than young people entering it. Bernard Salt agreed with Daley that this may be a matter of choice rather than discrimination against older workers. He vividly detailed the mindset of a Boomer generation who, after working and saving throughout their lives, have a sense of entitlement about what they feel is due to them in retirement.

But this is only one side of the coin. Many mature-age workers feel retirement is their only option and unless employers have conversations with their older workers about their needs and motivations, they risk losing valuable skills and knowledge, says Alison Monroe, CEO of SageCo.

From a panel discussion of leading HR professionals came stories of older workers who, their companies had discovered, wanted to remain useful, active and employed – while enjoying greater flexibility. Linda Redfearn, head of HR at Blackmores, Niki Kesoglou, group head of diversity and inclusion, QBE Insurance and Kate Dee (FAHRI), GM talent, culture and leadership at NAB talked about banishing stereotypes and not assuming that older workers always wanted to retire.

Kesoglou said QBE had begun by reviewing its talent management policies and asking questions about how to retain critical knowledge. Combining that with a new, flexible work policy led the company to explore further what motivated and drove their mature-age workforce.

All three businesses initiated conversations – in focus groups and through surveys – and collected data to build a story of their ageing workforce. NAB’s Kate Dee said the company’s approach was holistic, having discussions with mature-age workers as individuals, thinking about their health, relationships and financial situation. Blackmore’s approach was similar, helping employees to plan the latter part of their careers and transition to retirement. QBE’s Envisage program also began slowly with small interested groups but, Kesoglou remarked, as word spread throughout the company, tickets to attend were “snapped up quicker than for a Katy Perry concert”.

Moving from strategy to action, said Dee, “depended on having NAB’s executive sponsorship from the outset and then ensuring people leaders were skilled in having those conversations with mature age workers”. She was also pleased that establishing projects around the retention of mature age workers “had given her the opportunity to talk in front of leadership teams”.

Kesoglou summed up the belief among senior management: “From a workplace planning strategy, it’s critical to the future success of the business to have mature-aged workers engaged.”

For more on the topic of inclusion in the workplace attend the AHRI Inclusion and Diversity Conference, taking place in Sydney in May. Find out more

Leave a reply

9 Comments On "Older workers summit: 24 Feb"

avatar
  Subscribe to receive comments  
Notify me of
Judy Higgins - www.olderworkers.com.au
Judy Higgins - www.olderworkers.com.au
We are Australia’s only national job board specifically for over 45’s and are pleased to see these conversations continuing. We have over 35,000 registered jobseekers (growing daily) and many of them are desperate for work, many have all but given up and others have been unemployed, despite having good skills, for years. The Restart program has not had the positive impact the Government had hoped (rarely do these type of incentives) and does not include all workers over the age of 50. The Corporate Champions program has had its impact largely on retaining older workers so for older jobseekers offered… Read more »
David Wilson CAHRI
Two examples of Mature Age Worker Initiatives: 1. A well known blue chip company in the Telco infrastructure services industry had an Apprentice completion rate of less than 60%. When an”old bloke” Supervisor / Mentor was appointed to coach and council on a part time basis the retention rate hit a 98%. A considerable overall cost saving and value add. 2. The HR cycle of an international construction firm added “legacy” to the “Attract, recruit, retain/develop, transition to retire” cycle) They actively nurture a pool of their retirees (and transition to retire) as “temps” to call upon to deal with… Read more »
sue rayson-hall
I would like to know just how old the key note speakers and the panel are. They have not idea about older Australians wanting to work. To lump them into the baby boomer era is right but the reasons why people want and need to work. Many older people need to work to support themselves as they either have not had the opportunity to put enough away for retirement or they have lost money for a variety of reasons including the GFC. Ther are also the older people who enjoy the interaction that working gives them, them are fit and… Read more »
David Wilson CAHRI
I firmly believe the only way corporate Australia will pay due attention to mature age workers is through the establishment of Affirmative Action Agency for Mature Age Workers. A simple and inexpensive task for Government to add to EOWA reporting. Corporates need to explain their hiring and retrenchment patterns and be named and shamed for never hiring anyone over 50. The stereotype part time worker of today is usually a younger employee transitioning from parental leave rather than a mature aged worker transitioning to retirement. Many maternity leave replacements are hired in the image of the maternity leaver. What a… Read more »
Errol Phillips
Was there any discussion about removing barriers to reengaging with older workers who have been lost through redundancy? With Government wanting us to work until where 70, what real incentives and support is given to an employer to employ older workers and change the attitudes of hiring managers that are often much younger? If you’re not in a qualified asset short service profession (lawyers, accountants and medical) the only jobs being promoted for older workers are for low skilled roles and unattractive shifts (bus drivers, shop assistants, traffic control and security). We want to work and retain our dignity by… Read more »
Jedi Karanja

I agree with Errol and other participants – we must value the accumulated knowledge, relationships, experience and connection that the older workforce brings to the workforce and organisations. If we value this as much as we should (valuable asset), why do we need any other incentive to actively and meaningfully engage the older workforce – as paid or unpaid workers? Its great we are having these conversations.

More on HRM