Combating ageism in the workforce

Peter Norman Personnel

As the pipeline industry moves towards a more inclusive employment approach, there is still work to be done when it comes to retaining older members of the workforce.

While some progress has been made in reducing ageism in recruitment, a recent report from the Australian HR Institute (AHRI) has suggested that some employers are still reluctant to employ older workers.

Titled Employing and Retaining Older Workers, the report found that only a quarter of the nearly 300 human resources (HR) professionals surveyed were open to hiring people aged 65 and above “to a large extent”.

In comparison, 85 per cent of surveyed HR professionals said they are open to hiring from younger labour pools to “a large extent”, including people aged between 35 and 49.

Peter Norman Personnel is a recruitment agency servicing the engineering and utilities sectors.

Kate Cuic, a Recruitment Manager specialising in contractor and staff placements for pipeline projects, shared her expertise with The Australian Pipeliner.

Cuic said that employers are doing themselves a disservice by not considering older workers.

“Many older employees offer the skills, experience and wisdom that businesses need, especially when paired with next generations for project delivery as well as for the overall development of work force diversity in each sector,” Cuic said.

“Having a work culture that supports older members of the workforce can lead to many benefits for a business such as improved productivity and client satisfaction.

“Businesses need to shift their perspective on stereotypes and embrace the fact that we are now in a time where people will work into their older years.

Peter Norman Personnel
The four greatest advantages of recruiting older workers in 2023 are seen to be experience, professional knowledge, age diversity and reliability.

Research has also shown an increasing number of older workers re-joining the workforce.

According to federal government, by 2050, more than four in ten individuals in the world’s most advanced economies are likely to be older than 50.

“In our experience in the pipeline industry, we’re already there and have been for a long time because of a shortage of early career talent,” Cuic said.

“However, the sector is reaching a coming of age and now we’re faced with attrition of many mature age workers who could provide the experience that complements the skillsets of younger workers and can bring a positive influence on the workplace,” she said.

“Employers need to take advantage of this trend to address any talent gaps – particularly as the overseas talent tap was turned off in the last few years and we have seen dramatic changes to workplaces, technology and government policies.”

In fact, the four greatest advantages of recruiting older workers in 2023 are seen to be experience, professional knowledge, age diversity and reliability.

However, for those employers who are willing to consider older candidates, the research from AHRI indicated that there are many ageist practices embedded within the recruitment process.

A total of 49 per cent of HR professionals said recruitment practices at their organisation negatively impacted older workers.

The importance of retention

According to the AHRI report, initiatives to support older workers to remain in employment have fallen across several areas.

Fewer respondents reported organisations are offering career planning, training, development opportunities and flexible working hours.

“There are many specific initiatives that have proved to be positive in both recruitment and retention,” Cuic said.

“For employers, the Workforce Australia Services Wage Subsidy provides a financial incentive of up to $10,000 to encourage businesses to hire and retain eligible employees aged 50 years or older.”

Cuic said the Skills and Training Incentive provides up to $2200 to fund training to help employees build upon their skills to remain in the workforce.

There is also an online mature age hub that provides resources and assistance to both mature age workers and job seekers.

Peter Norman Personnel
Forty-nine per cent of HR professionals said recruitment practices at their organisation negatively impacted older workers.

On the other hand, 50 per cent of respondents noted that their organisations offer flexible work locations, something which may benefit older workers.

Other measures however, such as elder care leave, grandparent leave, and specific digital capability upskilling appear to be limited across the board.

These results reinforce the need for employers to make jobs more appealing to older workers.

Ultimately, Cuic said the path forward is for employers to amend their recruitment practices and remain open to providing flexible working and development initiatives.

“Employers can future proof their businesses by providing flexible workplaces and opportunities to grow for mature age workers,” Cuic said.

“In our experience, the pipeline industry has generally benefitted from the longevity of baby boomers.

“The nature of work is evolving, so the time is right for reinvention to harness the benefits of an age diverse workforce,” she said.

This article featured in the July edition of The Australian Pipeliner. 

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