HR Architect: Saturday Shoutout!!! – Ageing Workforce (Part 3)

Saturday Shoutout!!! Ageing Workforce (Part 3)

Issue 2 | Number 4 | 2 June 2012

In this third article on the ageing workforce, I examine the results of two recent Australian surveys that sought responses from HR and business professionals.  The results provide a snapshot of about how organisations are thinking about the issue of mature-age employment and what is happening to those in the workplaces.

What grabbed me about these surveys is that they reinforced the argument in the two case studies in the Ageing Workforce (Part 2) article that no single strategy works.  Everyone’s circumstances are unique.  A case-by-case approach is more beneficial.

AHRI – Mature Age Workforce Participation Survey

Results from AHRI’s Mature-age Workforce Participation Survey (2012) highlight that failure to ensure workers exchange knowledge before retirement is widespread.  Almost half of the 1212 respondents said their organisation had lost key knowledge or skills in the last year due to the departure of older workers.  Although some organisations do manage to get retired workers back temporarily on contracts, it makes much more sense to retain them for longer as employees, and to aim for a smooth, rather than sudden, transition to retirement, Sageco creative director, Catriona Byrne says.

Significant findings at a glance –

  • 46% of respondents reported that the departure of older workers from their workplace in the last year has caused loss of key knowledge and skills
  • 22% of respondents reported that the departure of older workers has caused the organisation to be less competitive
  • 35% of respondents believe their organisation is biased to some extent against the employment of older workers.

Respondents were invited to describe how the departure of older workers affected their workplace and a sample of these answers follows –

  • A lot of intellectual knowledge walked out the door
  • Loss of key skills no longer taught to younger generations
  • Loss of expertise, know-how and knowledge

Survey respondents suggested strategies that included gradual retirement plan, flexible hours, increase their workplace engagement and offering part-time work.  These methods can be effective, but they need to be part of a more holistic approach, Byrne says.  The “overwhelming catch cry” from the mature-aged workers she’s encountered is, “I’d be happy to work longer, but I want to work differently”.

What this means in practice will vary from person to person and business to business.  It might mean a long, gradual transition to retirement with flexible or part-time working hours, or it might mean adapting a worker’s role so that 40% of their time is spent coaching and training others and only 60% is spent doing their former job.

Byrne says that the AHRI report should give HR practitioners “a really solid base” to start assessing, analysing and addressing the risk of an aging workforce in their own organisations.

AIM – Australia’s Skills Gap Survey

The annual Australia’s Skills Gap Survey, conducted by the Australian Institute of Management (AIM), canvassed the workplace practices of more than 1,500 Australian organisations.  The results from the survey showed that overlooking older and experienced staff to fill a skills gap is nothing short of a ‘blind spot’ for HR, according to Susan Heron, CEO, AIM.

“There’s a huge upside for our nation’s skills hungry employers if they can better tap into the experience and capabilities of older Australians,” Heron said. “When you consider the many millions of dollars that Australian organisations have collectively invested over the years in developing the skills of mature aged people, it’s clear they should be seeking a greater return on their investment.”

Mature aged Australians, whether they’re in the workforce or have retired in recent years, have a wealth of knowledge and job ‘know-how’ that can provide savvy employers with a competitive edge.  Older Australians have also spent their whole careers developing a network of personal business contacts that can be used to advantage by an employer.  Heron added that the skills crisis isn’t going anywhere and will be a long-term reality for Australian organisations because of the nation’s resources boom and ageing workforce.


Current practices and findings reveal a mixed bag of data and insights.  I think the AHRI and AIM reports are very good levers for HR practitioners to start conversations in the boardroom and executive levels of their organisations around 4 critical questions –

What about us? What’s our data story? What’s our strategy? What are we going to do differently?’

Graphics: Epoch Times

Next week’s blog – Employee Engagement

If you find these updates useful, feel free to forward on to a work colleague or friend.

About the Author

To fulfil his professional and personal career aspirations, Tony Wiggins created ‘The HR Architect’ brand in 2009. With a well-grounded focus and passion for HR, he thrives on working across his networks as a thought leader in ‘making a difference’ in the HR arena.

Tony Wiggins is the Founder and UX Editor of Saturday Shoutout!!! and The HR Architect Spends 5 Minutes with …. Tony utilises the blog ‘The HR Architect’ as a social media network and platform that empowers HR professionals to network, assist and support one another, spanning different countries, subcultures and niches. Contact Tony at or on Twitter @tonywiggin.

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