Some time ago, the Victorian State Services Authority anticipated the ageing of the workforce. Analysis and suggestions toward older workers were originally aimed at the State Public Service, but have proved to be valid for older workers in other workplaces as well.

Three of the topics the document dealt with what you do when planning for new employees. They included: workforce culture, job design, and the process of recruitment.

1.   WHAT CAN I DO TO ADDRESS WORKFORCE CULTURE?

Attitudes, beliefs and expectations about how older workers will participate can become a feature of workforce culture. You may wish to consider the following questions before deciding on a course of action.

Questions to consider

  • what is the age culture in our organisation?
  • have you identified age-related assumptions operating in your workplace?
  • are there any specific behaviours that need to be addressed?
  • could age diversity be improved in your organisation/team?
  • what do the positive and/or negative aspects of our workforce culture look like?
  • who influences the culture? How can I engage them in change?
  • what are the risks associated with taking action?
  • do I need advice or support to implement changes or specific initiatives? Who can provide this?
  • are there existing policies and processes that address cultural stereotyping in your organisation?
  • do leaders in your area have the necessary level of age awareness and skills to manage age stereotyping?

Some common questions to ask in informing your business case include:

  • what will be the benefits/costs of addressing workforce culture within your workplace?
  • how many people will be affected?
  • how can new initiatives or responses be measured or reported on?
  • what is your organisation’s existing capacity for change (i.e. existing resources) and what additional resources may be required.

What strategies can I put in place?

Workplace studies indicate that the best outcomes are achieved from an integrated, age diverse approach, rather than specific initiatives aimed at older workers.

2.   WHAT CAN I DO TO ADDRESS JOB DESIGN?

When thinking of implementing new job design options, you may want to consider the following questions. Some will be more relevant than others, depending on the scale of your operations, the services you deliver and the age/skill profile of your team:

Questions to consider

  • what am I seeking to address? (skills gaps, productivity, low job satisfaction) who will I need to influence? (my own team, HR, senior management)
  • how ready is my organisation for this type of initiative? What would need to change? have I got supporting data or other insights at hand?
  • what benefits do I foresee for older workers? Does this match up with their perspectives? what are the likely benefits for the broader team?
  • what constraints or considerations might impact the changes I’m considering?
  • when could this be implemented? How long will it take?
  • what are the likely costs and savings from introducing this initiative?
  • what flexible work options are available or feasible?
  • have the costs and benefits been fully explored?
  • are you currently empowered and/or equipped to negotiate flexible options?
  • have structural or cultural barriers been addressed so that job design changes have the best chance of success?
  • do you discuss phased retirement opportunities with older workers in your team, and with potential candidates?
  • is there potential for introducing mentoring and/or coaching roles in your team?
  • do you periodically evaluate your flexible work offering to ensure that it continues to support productivity and other objectives?

What strategies can I put in place?

Once you’ve considered all the pros and cons associated with your proposed job design changes you will have a sound basis for action.

3.   WHAT CAN I DO TO ADDRESS RECRUITMENT?

An age-inclusive approach is all about finding the right person for the job, and should not make a special case of older workers. However, given that public sector recruitment patterns demonstrate such a strong preference for younger workers, there is a case for addressing some of the barriers that exist in current recruitment processes and practices.

Questions to consider

Here are some initial questions that might stimulate your thinking:

  • do our recruitment practices need to change to be more age-inclusive?
  • what will these changes require in terms of policy, practice, direct costs and time?
  • In addition to the direct costs of recruitment activities (such as advertising, use of recruitment agencies) you may need to consider other indirect costs such as:
  • administration/recruitment processes: sourcing, interviewing, screening and assessment, job descriptions and on-boarding.
  • training: formal training/on-the-job training
  • productivity: period of unfilled vacancy; learning curve of new recruit; time out for supporting staff – buddy, supervisor, peer etc.
  • absenteeism/work injuries.
  • what are the likely impacts of change on our organisation/team?
  • is our employment brand attractive to all potential candidates, regardless of age?
  • do we have access to age-inclusive guidelines when undertaking recruitment activities? Are they being effectively used?
  • is the advertising and selection process delivering a wide age-range of candidates?
  • do older workers in our team/organisation pursue vertical or horizontal career opportunities?
  • do our job descriptions use language that encourages an age-diverse pool of candidates?
  • is selection criteria in our screening process based on merit, balancing the value of formal education and quality experience?
  • do older workers find our on-boarding processes supportive and effective? are language and images used in our job advertisements age-neutral?
  • is there a suitable forum for older workers to learn about career opportunities with us, including related application and recruitment processes?

What strategies can I put in place?

Improved targeting of recruitment strategies has the potential to increase fit to role, reduce turnover levels and broaden the pool of people and skills for organisational success. You can contribute to these outcomes by testing assumptions and ensuring that policies and practices do not discriminate on the basis of age.

For any queries about recruitment, HR or legal matters involving employment, we at JFMLAW have the answers. Call us on 02 9331 0266

John Morrissey

T: +61 2 9331 0266
E: john.morrissey@jfmlaw.com.au

John Morrissey has been a practising Sydney solicitor for 30 years, and for the past 20 a sole practitioner and the principal at JFMLAW.

His main focus employment law, advising small to medium-sized firms and their employees of their rights and obligations.

For many years he was a lecturer at UTS to students obtaining Masters in Human Resources Management with a focus on performance management and creating a culture of delivery in workplaces. John has acted for a significant number of employers, not only in developing a performance based culture in the workplace but also solving particular problems that arise relating to unfair dismissal, contract disputes, improper use of intellectual property or other property as well as enforcements of restraints of trade.

John is very happy to speak to any employer who has an issue on a free of charge basis by a phone call. Please feel free to ring John at anytime up to 6pm most days.
John Morrissey