How to Become an Age-Friendly Employer

How to Become an Age-Friendly Employer

While the covid-19 epidemic has severely affected the entire Australian workforce, it also presents an opportunity to build back better. In a post-COVID future, we can increase age-diversity in workplaces and better engage and include older people in work.

EveryAGE Counts is working towards these goals through our membership in the Collaborative Partnership on Mature Age Employment. Recently, we also helped organise a virtual business roundtable, Build Back Better, hosted and delivered by Global Access Partners (GAP), to discuss opportunities for mature-aged workers after COVID-19.

Both these initiatives examine what employers can do to support older workers. We think Chip Conley’s advice is a great starting point for any employer, so we are sharing that here. As well as being a great guide for employers, it also gives older workers a good check list of things to look for in your job searching.

A best-selling US author, founder of Modern Elder Academy, and former company exec, Chip Conley has set out 10 excellent tips for supporting older workers. As Chip’s tips show, age-diversity can have huge benefits for your business.

Read on to find out what you can do to become an age-friendly employer, or what an age-friendly employer might look like when you are looking for a job.

1. Become age-diverse

Sure, celebrating diversity promotes warm and fuzzy feelings. But did you know that diverse companies are more productive?

A company can’t be diverse unless it includes workers in the older demographic. Make age-diversity a priority along with culture, race, gender, sexuality, disability and religion.

2. Start older worker groups

Internal affinity groups, also known as employee resource groups (ERGs), are a great way to support employees. These groups give employees a safe space to interact with like-minded people and explore their needs and interest. Consider starting an older workers group like those of well-known brands: Wisdom@Airbnb, Uber Sage and Google Greyglers.

3. Learn from the greats

While there is a long way to go to begin properly supporting older workers, many companies are leading by example. Check out the annual winners of New York City’s Age Smart Employer Awards to discover which businesses are doing well and what policies you can steal to introduce into your workplaces. Look around in Australia and you will also see some forward-looking, age inclusive businesses to learn from.

4. Boast your age-diversity

When senior leaders highlight the importance of age diversity, the community pays attention.

Chip Conley gives some great US examples of this, but we also have some closer to home.  Andrew McDonald, Bunnings General Manager of Human Resources in Australia and New Zealand told the recruitment agency SEEK:

“We learned a long time ago that older, more experienced team members are an integral part of creating a business that engenders trust and confidence for our customers.  Our team spans six generations from 15 to 80, which provides fantastic learning and mentoring opportunities for everyone.”

5. Let wisdom flow between generations

Older workers have wisdoms and experience to impart to other employees. But are they given the opportunities to do so? Similarly, younger generations have fresh perspectives to share.

Consider formalising this exchange of knowledge through mentoring and reverse-mentoring programs.

6. Help employees retire securely

Support employees to stay productive for longer by educating them on ageing and retirement. Offer older employees full to part-time flexibility, and inform them on succession planning so they can ease into retirement.

7. Hire more older workers

You’ll rarely hear of good reasons for hiring older workers, but the advantages are abundant.

Conley says that hiring older workers can be very efficient for a business.  They often come equipped with valuable skills based on long experience.

8. Try Google’s 20%-time policy

Google lets its employees devote 20% of their time to projects they think will benefit Google. Employees can work on any project of their choosing, which encourages creativity and innovation.

Allow your experienced older workers 20% of their time to mentoring and advising workers of other generations.

9. Think health and safety

While considering the health and safety needs of a workforce, remember to consider the needs of workers in the older demographic. This includes improved ergonomics in the office or helping older workers transition out of physically taxing roles by teaching them new skills.

10. Create a longevity strategy

Chip Conley’s “longevity strategy” is all about innovating business and its hiring policies to support older workers. But it also means innovating business to support older customers, ensuring a business grows and thrives. A “longevity strategy” can set you apart from your competitors.

These are straight forward things we can all get behind.  Start raising these ideas in your workplace. 

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