Diversity and inclusion have become the mantra of the moment for corporates, but too often age is being left out of the narrative, excluding a significant part of the workforce.
With companies facing an acute talent shortage, it is time for corporate Australia to ‘walk the talk’ on the issue of diversity and inclusion, especially when it comes to mature-age workers.
After developing a strong Employee Value Proposition (EVP), HR departments face pressure to help workers remain with their employers and avoid ‘the great resignation’.
An EVP covers tangible benefits such as salary and bonuses, alongside intangibles such as culture, training, and career opportunities. However, the pandemic has led to changes in EVPs and a rethink of traditional recruiting practices.
Because, while statements about diversity and inclusion are often found on companies’ websites and in mission statements, implementation is usually placed in the too-hard basket.
Why age must be part of diversity
The continued omission of mature-age workers enables employment ageism to continue to thrive. It’s exclusion, not inclusion. You can’t hire age positively if age is not part of a company’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy.
Equally, you can’t create an age-positive culture without putting real and positive measures in place to prevent ageism and promote age-positive hiring strategies. This lack of action enables employment ageism – and disadvantages a large part of the community.
An article on Leveraging the Value of an Age-Diverse Workforce for the SHRM Foundation, by the US-based Lori A. Trawinski, PhD, of the AARP Public Policy Institute, says that the case for age diversity and inclusion is indisputable.
“Research clearly demonstrates that age diversity can improve organisational performance, and HR practices that improve the age diversity climate within an organisation have the potential to further improve performance and lower employee turnover,” she says.
“Studies also find that the productivity of both older and younger workers is higher in companies with mixed-age work teams. And age diversity within teams is positively related to performance when groups are involved in complex decision-making tasks.”
Diversity vs Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion are interconnected but different concepts. Diversity is about representation from different groups. Inclusion is the next step and is about how well the contributions, presence and perspectives of diverse people are valued and integrated into a workplace culture.
Consultant Carolyn Gallaway of Diversity Dimensions works with large companies to develop diversity and inclusion programs, helping them to employ more workers with a wider variety of backgrounds and experiences and was part of the team that worked on a Corporate Champions program that focused on the recruitment and retention of mature-age job seekers
She also works with Indigenous, disabled, and disadvantaged groups, establishing workplace training programs and training the existing workforce to create a culture of inclusion and support.
However, while Gallaway sees mature-aged workers as a disadvantaged group, she says that it is one that is often forgotten in diversity initiatives.
“Age is not something that comes up as much as Indigenous initiatives or employing workers with disabilities,” she says.
“To transition that interest into a program and start recruiting in those areas is still difficult. You need to look outside the square and the traditional way of recruiting and companies find that difficult because they still feel that employees have to fit into their mould of what they think they want.”
Gallaway says that the benefits of having a diverse workforce are obvious, but many corporates don’t give it the focus they should.
“When there’s a description of the kind of culture you want, the sort of values that are going to drive that culture and the behaviours that are going to make those values real, then I say, ‘this is fine, but you really need to walk your talk’.
“You need to take it a step further and have an employee value proposition. There’s lots of different ways to do it, but it’s underpinned with tangible features such as perks, benefits and things that the company offers its employees.”
The value of mature-aged workers
“The common sense of it all seems to go missing from companies,” she says. “There is a large value proposition from a mature-age cohort. And while we are not recruiting and not working with them, we’re destroying their confidence.”
The value added by mature workers has been borne out by another report from Trawinski, entitled Disrupting Aging in the Workplace. Trawinski notes that one research study found that the relative productivity of both older and younger workers is higher in companies that utilise mixed-age work teams than in companies that do not.
“By removing the lens of age as a way to view existing or potential employees, we shift the focus to their abilities, skills, and knowledge,” Trawinski says. “It also expands the talent recruitment pool, which ultimately benefits an organisation.”
Multigenerational workplaces with a greater mix of workers at all ages are seen to have a better chance of success than those with a pyramid of larger numbers of younger workers and relatively few older workers.
Employing and retaining mature workers
Like most western countries, Australia’s workforce is ageing, and companies in Australia employ workers that span all age groups.
An April 2021 report from the Australian HR Institute and Australian Human Rights Commission on Employing and Retaining Older Workers, says that the number of older workers is increasing in organisations, with one third of their respondents saying at least half of their workforce is made up of workers above 55 years old.
Despite this, however, over two thirds of respondents’ organisations seldom or never offer unconscious bias training to their line managers. Of those who do offer such training, half say it does not address age-related biases.
CEO and Managing Director of the Australian HR Institute, Sarah McCann-Bartlett, says that it’s time we examined and potentially reassessed our bias training, mentorship programs and succession planning strategies to ensure we’re not excluding a talented portion of the workforce – one that has a plethora of wisdom, experience, professional networks, and institutional knowledge, all of which bolster an organisation’s bottom line.
“It’s simple: if you’re not nurturing older talent, you are missing out,” she says.
True flexibility at work
While flexible work has been touted as the solution for parents with school-aged children, mature workers are often left out of the conversation, with companies ignoring their requests for flexibility.
Developing an age-positive culture includes providing agile work practices that go beyond childcare responsibilities. Mature workers want employers who measure performance, not hours at a desk, and appreciate the challenges involved in caring for ageing parents or developing a path to retirement.
Gallaway suggests that practices such as job sharing, or part-time work are equally attractive to mature aged workers as they are to new parents.
The Australian HR Institute report reflects this view. Flexible work options continue to be the number one initiative that respondents suggest would personally encourage them to remain in the workforce for longer (40.2%). This is followed by job satisfaction (29.3%) and the option of phased retirement (14.9%).
Diversity after the pandemic
Gallaway predicts that there will be changes in the movement of power to employees versus employers after the pandemic eases.
“I do think the pandemic has made people change their thinking on lots of stuff,” she says. “It will be interesting to see how it all ends up when people go back. Some companies just want to go back to normal, but they’re maybe not the companies that will survive.”
A May 2020 report by McKinsey argues that companies who focus on diversity and inclusion in their workforce may emerge from the pandemic stronger.
“There is ample evidence that diverse and inclusive companies are more likely to make better, bolder decisions – a critical capability in the crisis,” the report says.
“For example, diverse teams have been shown to be better able to radically innovate and anticipate shifts in consumer needs and consumption patterns. Moreover, the shift to technology-enabled remote working presents an opportunity for companies to accelerate building inclusive and agile cultures – further challenging existing management routines.
“Not least, a visible commitment to D&I during the crisis is likely to strengthen companies’ global image and license to operate.”
Age diversity needs to be an integral part of the diversity and inclusion and talent management conversation.
This is why Maturious is reinventing recruitment by focusing on capabilities rather than age. Maturious works with organisations with a commitment to age diversity and to building multi-generational workforces. We are proud to work with some of the most progressive employers in Australia including PwC, KPMG, Deloitte, QBE, NAB, and Aware Super.
‘’The future of talent and work are interdependent. Organisations are taking more heed of the mature aged workforce and looking to develop new employment models to enable the opportunities and benefits of the mature aged workforce,’’ says David Tarr, CEO Maturious.
“If your organisation isn’t hiring mature-age workers, it’s supporting a lack of diversity, and further compounding the inherent issue of talent gaps and shortages,” Tarr says.
“Not to mention the opportunity cost of not hiring workers with unrivalled knowledge, experience, and capabilities, and who reflect the changing customer base.”
“Excluding mature-age workers is simply not good business.”
Interested in learning more?
Book a demonstration with a Maturious consultant and take your workforce diversity to the next level.
Why mature-aged workers are the number 1 blind spot for companies when recruiting
Facing ‘The Great Resignation’, socially aware and economically savvy companies are realising the benefits of age diversity when recruiting and managing their workforce.
- Nov 02
MarkSep 11, 2022
Thanks for your blog, nice to read. Do not stop.