Keeping Mature-Age Workers on the Job

To make Australian workplaces supportive and productive environments for all employees, it has never been more important to engage mature-age workers and will only become more so.

When Australia’s Age Pension was introduced in 1909, only 4% of our population lived long enough to claim it. 

Today, the average Australian is expected to live 15 to 20 years beyond the traditional retirement age of 65. By 2050 nearly a quarter of our population will be aged 65 and over.

Our research has found that organisations can boost engagement among mature-age workers by adopting specific management practices targeting their needs. These include better job design, mentoring opportunities and phased retirement.

Baby Boomers have an unprecedented opportunity to extend their working careers beyond the traditional retirement age. As the largest and wealthiest older generation ever, their decision to retire depends largely on how much they are enjoying their work.

Australia’s social policies are designed to keep people working longer, but the effectiveness of these policies depends on employers’ willingness to accommodate the needs of ageing employees.

The research

We surveyed 666 men and women between the ages of 45 and 75. Over a three-year period (2011-2013), we found that people expressed less concern about negative age stereotypes and were more engaged in their work when their employer offered practices targeting mature-age workers.

In organisations without these practices, engagement levels of mature-age workers were 19-20% lower than in more supportive organisations.

Further, mature-age practices were more effective in engaging mature-age workers than age-neutral practices like ongoing training, rewarding high performance and inviting employee participation.

A fully engaged employee delivers the full value of his or her salary, while a disengaged or semi-engaged employee might deliver only 60–80%.

The average salary in Australia in 2014 was nearly A$80,000. At that rate, a single disengaged employee could cost his or her employer $16,000 to $32,000 each year.

However, the cost of disengagement may be even higher for a mature-age employee with years of experience who is likely to be at the high end of organisational pay scales.

This was originally published by The Conversation.

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