Are you over 55 and plan to work until you are 70? Have you been discriminated on regarding finding a new role in last few years? If so you are not alone as this is common in the Australian labour market and the reasons do not make sense.
Or, are you a business leader that is looking to build a more loyal, and productive workforce?
If you are either of these then let me show the way forward for both of you.
Are you aware that people aged 55 and over make up about a quarter of the population, but form just 16 per cent of the workforce? This is according to a report on employment discrimination against older Australians entitled Willing to Work.
The report’s key finding highlights the widespread nature of discrimination against older people in employment:
“Individuals who are subject to negative assumptions, stereotypes and discrimination can experience stress, and a decline in physical and mental health. The experience can also diminish a person’s self-confidence, self-esteem and motivation to remain in the workforce,” the report stated.
“Discrimination can occur at all stages in the employment cycle. Older Australians can feel ‘shut out’ of recruitment, be offered less professional development opportunities, or perceive that they are targeted for redundancy during periods of organisational restructure.
There are negative assumptions and pervasive stereotypes about older people that contribute to discriminatory practices.”
Older workers may not have the same tech-savvy of their younger colleagues, but they have years of experience you can’t teach or replace and are a valuable resource for any organisation.
Here are a few key advantages to older workers that leaders should take advantage of:
1. They have good leadership skills. Older workers make good leaders because they often have stronger communication skills than their younger colleagues. Most have better than average communication and people skills due to their time before emails, sms, tweets and the like. Face-to-face communication is an essential skill in the business world and one that junior staff sometimes struggles with; they could benefit from having a mentor.
2. They’re focused. Older people have been working their entire lives and are often not searching for the next opportunity like younger workers. They know exactly what they want to do and are focused on getting the work done. Older workers tend to be more interested in stability where a recent college graduate might be most concerned about moving up the corporate ladder as quickly as possible.
According to a survey by the Pew Research centre’s Social & Demographic Trends project , 54% of workers older than 65 are still employed because they want to be — not because they need the money. The survey also found that 54% of workers age 65 and older say they are “completely satisfied” with their jobs, compared with just 29% of workers ages 16 to 64.
3. They’re loyal. Since older workers are typically more satisfied with their jobs, they also tend to stay longer. Companies invest countless man hours and financial resources into the screening, hiring and training of new employees, only to find that many employees leave for ‘greener pastures’ after a few months as they ascend through their career path.
According to a report published by the BLS, “the length of time a worker remains with the same employer increases with the age at which the worker began the job.” The report found that tenure for workers with their current employer was highest for the oldest workers at 10.2 years. For those between the ages of 55 and 64, this number was 9.9 years and for those between 45 and 54 years old it was 7.6 years.
4. They have a good work ethic. According to a 2010 Pew Research centre survey, “Nearly six in 10 respondents cited work ethic as one of the big differences between young and old. Asked who has the better work ethic, about three-fourths of respondents said that older people do.”
In a report published by Randstad Work Solutions, 90% of the respondents who were older said that being “ethical” is “extremely or very important” to workplace culture, whereas 83% of Gen X workers and 66% of Gen Y workers agreed.
5. They have strong networks. Older workers have been in the workforce longer and they’ve had more time to meet people and network along the way. According to a study conducted by The centre on ageing and Work at Boston College, 46.3% of employer respondents said that their older employees have stronger professional networks and client networks compared to 30% who said the same about their younger workers
6. They can be great mentors and coaches to younger staff. Most seniors are keen to pass on their experience and when given the opportunity to take on mentor roles they rise to the occasion. Organisations like Bunnings have built a great culture (and High Performance) around employing seniors up to 80 years of age and mixing teams to utilise their wide knowledge base.
While there is good reason for employers to hire, and retain older workers it should not be left to them to further this cause, older workers need to change their thinking as well. So what are some of things that you can control if still looking for career success after 55?
Here are some simple tips:
Retain an open mind and continue to learn
One of the common objections I hear about older workers is their resistance to change and to adopt new thinking and technology. Make sure you know more that just Word and Excel as in today’s world you also need knowledge in CRM’s, ERP’s and in some cases new Cloud based packages such as Finance, Project management, Design and the like. Look at your sector and make sure you can stand your own on the latest software systems.
If you are working in a particular field then make sure you are ofay with the latest thinking, research and or innovations and be prepared to show this knowledge base.
Even if you are not 100% up to date then at the very least be prepared to get trained and use whatever systems are required of you to deliver your new role – keep an open mind to new ideas and processes.
Build your networks
It is well accepted that up to 80% of roles are found in the non-advertised market. You need to build a stronger network ASAP. Ask yourself who would take your call if you phoned for a network meeting and are they positioned in roles that could offer information and further contacts. Use LinkedIn for this as it’s the best networking platform for business. Set yourself the goal of having more than 300 contacts by the end of the year. If you would like more information on how to network for your next role then get my free eBook today
Aim to have at least six network meetings a month to re-establish and grow your network. These are about giving as much as receiving. Look to join associations, attend events and workshops. Building your network is a career requirement today no matter your age. You will have many jobs in your career and your network will support you finding most of them.
When applying for some roles your network will be of value (Business Development) so show that it is relevant and well maintained.
Build your Brand
If you ask people who know you to describe you in a few words what would they say? This is your current brand and you need to develop and communicate this to support your career going forward. Be known for a few things and not a lot and be known to your target market/ audience not everyone. Be seen for what you can deliver and for the unique way in which you do it.
For more on Personal Branding - see the Personal Branding Blog site.
Look at peer to peer structures
Australia like most of the world is going through a structural shift in labour supply (CSIRO report - Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce) and the growth of peer-to peer platforms is evidence of this. Some of you may see this as a way to supply contract services to employers throughout the world especially if your service is suited for the online world. This would suit those looking to work from home or from rural communities where high speed internet is hopefully coming soon under the NBN
Look to portfolio careers
I have coached a number of executives over the years who have moved into portfolio careers, which means working for more than one employer or having a number of contracts on the go at any time. This may mean two contracts or a number of Board/ Committee appointments. This is a great way for organisations to get the skills and experience they need at a lower price and cover duties that do not require 40 hours per week. As long as the two roles do not cause a conflict of interest most organisations would consider such a proposal. If wishing to become a Company Director then look to get training (AICD) and get some early experience on small boards or Non-Profits.
Look to part time careers
For those with healthy Super balances you may decide to kick back a bit and reduce the days from five to three for example. Like the portfolio career this can offer an employer great benefits without the risk and high cost. Look to what you would expect for a three-day contract for 1, 2 or 3 years say and then negotiate a deal that you can live with.
The first place to look is with your current or past employer as they already know your value proposition and cultural fit.
Keep yourself Healthy and Fit
A common misconception about the older worker is that they lack energy and get sick more often. Look to a fitness program and diet to keep your energy high and to maintain your good looks. Remember in employment first impressions count.
While it can be hard for those over 55 to remain in their ideal role it is possible to continue working until 70 and over as this has been proven to improve mental and physical health and well as saving the Super balance until you really need it. To a large extent, it is within your control and it just takes some preplanning and action in building the Network and Brand.
Get a coach
It can be a lonely journey when searching for a new role in your later years and having someone to both guide and support you can make all the difference. There are some great career coaches out there and most can work with you over the long period it may take to achieve your aim.
If you are an older worker looking to find a new role then I hope this has given you a few ideas on how you can control your later stage career and feel free to contact me if I can provide further information.
If you are a business leader then I hope you can look at your current team and see opportunities to employ more older workers so you can gain the real benefits that they can provide. If you are looking at the current culture within your team and would like support on building more diversity and high performance then give me a call as well as happy to catch up.