Benefits of older workers

This part of Work45+ discusses the benefits older workers can bring to a workplace through:

Older workers can help you overcome business challenges

According to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), “it is not ‘risky’ to give mature age workers more opportunities – it is risky if we don’t!”.1

Older workers tend to have a good work ethic, networks, interests and industry knowledge. They bring work and life experience and skills that add value and support organisations.2

The ACCI1 urges businesses to recognise the ways that older workers can help them overcome challenges associated with:

  • a shrinking workforce
  • skills shortages
  • succession planning
  • loss of corporate knowledge.

It also highlights the considerable benefits of tapping into older people’s networks and external interests.1 These may be more developed or extensive than those of younger workers, or they may simply be different. Either way, they can increase your organisation’s reach.

Older workers are productive and loyal

Studies and data quoted by the Australian Government show that, compared to their younger counterparts, older workers are generally:

  • more productive
  • more loyal
  • less prone to absenteeism.3

Older workers care about workplace health and safety

Workers over 45 are no more likely to be injured in the workplace than workers under 45.4

In addition, WorkSafe surveys5 have found respondents aged over 50 are

  • the most aware of their responsibilities and how to be safe in their work
  • the least likely to take safety shortcuts
  • most likely to know about current workplace health and safety matters
  • the most likely to report a safety concern or accident
  • the most likely to use safety gear when it is provided.

Older workers are keen to learn

It’s a myth that older workers are necessarily uncomfortable with new technology. Some may take slightly longer to pick up new skills, but they are likely to be enthusiastic learners if they:

  • can see how the new technology relates to what they already know
  • can learn at their own pace
  • have plenty of opportunities to practice.5

A recent National Seniors Australia online survey of 5446 participants aged over 50 found:

“…evidence of a digitally literate cohort comfortable using a range of digital technologies on a regular basis. While the issue of a digital divide remains relevant to this population, it is also important to acknowledge that reductionist stereotypes of all older Australians being left behind by technology are not only harmful but also unfounded”.6

Older workers can bring a new perspective

Older workers can sometimes give you a welcome new perspective. The experiences they have built up over many years may give them a fresh insight, with the potential for improved business processes.7

Age diversity is good business

Tasmania has the oldest population of any Australian state or territory. This creates opportunities for businesses and other organisations to better cater for the needs and preferences of mature-age customers and clients. An extensive literature review published by COTA Tasmania in 2017 concluded that customer satisfaction is likely to be better if your workforce represents its community.2

In the video below, Searson Buck’s Wil Wodrow explains some of the advantages of an age-diverse workplace including older workers.

Age diversity makes business sense

Wil Wodrow (WW), Searson Buck

How can employment agencies help my organisation?

WW – We’re always actually talking to employers about; there’s big projects coming up and who, what skills they require to do actually these jobs and work. So, we’re always trying to help advise about what different workforces they can work with and, of course, the mature age one is definitely one that we talk about them to consider to look at. Provides plenty of benefits for them to work with this workforce, so obviously mentoring is a great thing to have a good balanced workforce together and also the individual skills that they bring as well. And they’re quite a loyal bunch as well. So, I’m not trying to categorise the whole lot, but generally overall that’s what you find in a balanced, diverse workforce.

Is it good for a business to have a mix of ages?

WW – Absolutely. I think for tenure or longevity of your workforce I think you’ll find that you’ll have a good balance in there to make sure that longer, I guess more dedicated longer term aged workforce will want to actually see out there career in a particular job or skill and that type of thing. So, they’ll provide that sort of stability and balance in there and your intergenerational you know, you might categorise that Generation X and Baby Boomers if you read about those a lot online that there’s plenty of benefits to have them in your workforce, so that’s the aged workforce and then bringing that mix together with all your Gen Y, Gen Zs, all this terminology that’s used around there. I just think it’s, we’re probably at the best time to be working together at the moment. So, there’s five generations to work together, so therefore you’d have a mix of everything and that’s where the good investment, you’ll have a good balanced workforce.

What if an older applicant is missing a required skill?

WW – Yeah, well picking up skills I think for everybody regardless of age, diversity, that type of thing,  it is the changing nature of work, is always keep yourself skilled up in communication skills making sure that you’ve got good customer service skills and this is the thing that I find interesting for the mature workforce is that they’ve got plenty of that, which people are talking about soft skills nowadays. So, why not have these people to come in and help with that people skills side and then help them along the journey that again, not trying to categorise, but if it’s, you know, I.T. or trying to learn about computers then let’s work together as a diverse workforce to make sure that people can help grow those skills and meet everybody together.

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Video credits
  • Wil Wodrow is Partnerships Manager at Searson Buck.
  • “Age diversity makes business sense” film maker: Lucy East
  • Anne Kirby-Fahey is a career coach and Board member of Career Options Tasmania.
  • Dianne Underwood is the former People and Culture Manager at Wrest Point and Country Club Casinos. Dianne is on the boards of Colony 47 and Westpac Rescue Helicopter Tasmania.
  1. Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry 2014, Employ Outside the Box: The Business Case for Recruiting and Retaining Mature Age Workers
  2. COTA Tasmania 2017, Rethink Ageing: Recruiting for Life Experience:Summary
  3. Australian Government 2017, in partnership with the Australian Industry Group and members of the Australian Government’s Consultative Forum on Mature Age Participation, Mature Age Information for Employers: Investing in Experience Toolkit
  4. WorkCover Tasmania 2013, Safe and Healthy: A Guide to Managing an Ageing Workforce
  5. WorkSafe Tasmania 2020, Older Workers
  6. National Seniors Australia 2019, Senior Surfers: Diverse Levels of Digital Literacy Among Older Australians
  7. Australian Government 2019, Business: Equal Opportunity and Diversity