Terry Lee, director, leadership psychology Australia believes age discrimination is not an issue in mainstream organisations, as these businesses are more interested in solving problems.
“They are often happy to have a sounding board and someone to provide advice at a senior, experienced level.”
Monroe finds few organisations still believe the myths about declining mental capacity and enthusiasm among older employees.
“I am very rarely tackled now on the stereotypes. The barriers have been increasingly broken down over the past decade and this is partly due to the work of diversity professionals in building the business case for mature workers,” she says.
Although many organisations continue to focus on retention, others have taken the plunge with recruitment. According to Lee, organisations such as Bunnings are very enthusiastic about hiring mature workers – many of whom are older than 70 – for a mix of casual and part-time roles.
This suits the needs of many mature workers, he says. “When they are in their 60s, many people want to move into ‘portfolio’ careers, say, two days a week. If you take management and administrative activities off them, people are happy to continue working.”
Working as coaches
In those industries where mature workers are being recruited, their roles are often as coaches for younger employees.
“We talk to clients about having multi-generational leadership in their business and we spend a lot of time on ‘leadership legacy coaching’ so organisations don’t lose clients,” Lee explains.
While mature-age recruitment remains an issue, stopping the brain drain that occurs when older workers leave is also a challenge. The key message seems to be not to take a one-size-fits-all approach to ensure you hang on to mature employees.
An Economist Intelligence Unit global survey in 2011 found that only 18 per cent of firms had policies in place to deal with the rising number of older workers.
In fact, around 80 per cent of executives polled in the survey were interested in working as long as they could.
Lee believes retention is about under- standing the drivers for mature employees. “Older workers are interested in fitting work into their lifestyle. Many are more ‘volunteers’ and are looking for challenges.”
Employers have a vital role to play in the wellbeing of mature workers and this can be a key trigger point for retention.
“We bring the whole of self to work and it’s the employer’s duty of care to support that,” says Monroe.