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The hidden value in developing older workers

There’s an increase in the rate of employment for older workers in developed nations. With workers staying employed for longer and workplace technology, thinking and practices ever-changing, is it time to invest in the professional development of your older workforce?

A recent study of OECD countries found that the employment rate for workers aged between 55-64 increased by 6% in Australia and 4% in New Zealand in less than a decade. Across the board, OECD countries are seeing more older workers remaining employed well past their 50s and 60s.

Given the shift we are experiencing in Australia and New Zealand, what are the benefits of addressing the development gap experienced by older workers?


Increased employee retention

When technology giant AT&T decided to upgrade company systems to keep up with the digital age, they took an inclusive approach. Instead of hiring new people who were familiar with new technologies, they provided training for all 280,000 employees. The result? They retained their loyal employees whose average tenure lasts up to 12 years.

Despite the common belief, older workers can and are willing to learn new skills. The key is to provide targeted training.

When you help your workforce to adapt to new technologies, you give them a good incentive to stay on the job. Not only does this mean retaining them, but also the knowledge, skills and understanding older employees have about your organisation.


Enriched work roles

In the context of our ageing society, older workers make significant contributions. Their active participation in the workplace means they share valuable benefits including:

  • Loyalty to the business
  • Commitment to organisational purpose
  • Well-established network of contacts

Supporting the development of older workers opens other avenues for them within the workforce. If they are enabled to move, not just upwards but also laterally, it creates employees with richer experiences.

Leaders should also explore whether developing older workers enables them to hold multi-faceted roles. It’s important not to restrict them to tasks that they have already mastered but not shock them into a completely different job.


Decreased economic pressure

The Australian Human Rights Commission reports that just a 3% increase in workforce participation for workers aged over 55 would boost GDP by up to $33 billion. The reduced pressure on the government to support our ageing population is vital for economic stability.

At an organisational level, developing older workers with the aim of keeping them active in the workforce, also adds up financially. Higher retention means less hiring costs and maintaining highly productive, and committed employees all positively impact the bottom line.


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