Editors Note: This is a guest post written by Heidi Holmes, Managing Director of Adage.com.au – Australia’s leading job board for mature age workers. Her opinions are her own.
In my line of work, I’m talking to both employers and recruiters on a weekly basis, putting forward the business case as to why they should consider mature workers. If I get through my initial spiel, 9 times out of 10, I’m shunned away with the statement “we don’t discriminate based on age here anyway”.
I personally don’t believe in a stick approach. If the product or service is good enough, you should be able to influence decision makers as a willing participant, rather than forcing their hand through penalizing them. That’s why we don’t play the discrimination card – that’s a policy and legislative issue for industry and Government to deal with.
However, what frustrates me about this statement is that it implies complacency and a lack of strategy. So if you don’t discriminate based on age, what do you do to attract this workforce?
Discrimination vs Diversity
To make a point, let’s interchange ‘age’ with ‘gender’.
“We don’t discriminate based on gender” is a statement you just wouldn’t hear anyone say in this day and age. Instead, organisations pursue the aspirational statement “We are an employer of choice for women”. And how do they do this? With a strategy.
This may include longer maternity leave payments, flexible work practices, organisational training, diversity and gender related policies, or perhaps recruitment through female centric sites.
If an organisation was to just say “we don’t discriminate based on gender” do you think they are doing enough to attract the best and brightest? No.
So what if we change this opening statement to “We are an age-friendly organisation that embraces maturity and values experience”? How does this now position the employer and brand in front of the jobseeker or consumer?
To illustrate how powerful this statement could be for your organisation, I think its time we had a closer look at the numbers as this sets up a compelling and honest assessment of why you should and actually need to embrace the over 45 market in your recruitment strategy.
Australia’s Demographic Cliff
The 45 to 54 age bracket is the fastest growing labour market segment in Australia. While we are talking about a niche market, it is not niche in terms of size.
Simply, it’s a numbers game both from a recruitment and retention perspective. Regardless of your views or your acceptance of the business case for mature workers, the fact is unless we alter our immigration policy, organisations ignore mature workers at their peril.
So there are some stats there to support the benefits of hiring maturity but what about the practical application? Why are employers approaching us to directly source mature age workers? Why do they want to be seen as a market leader and an ‘age-friendly’ employer?
If we look at some of our clients in the retail sector age diversity is all about acknowledging who uses or buys their product.
Boomers: The Neglected Consumer
The baby boomer market is an important consumer segment.
There are currently 7 million people over 50 in Australia constituting over 30% of the population who collectively account for over 50% of household spending.
In this regard reflecting your customer base in your workforce is becoming an increasing strategic focus. Some businesses have told us they aren’t getting the diversity of applicants they require through traditional channels, that’s why multiple niche job boards are becoming a part of their recruitment strategy in 2013.
As we close out 2012 and look to the new year, now is the time to review your current recruitment strategy and ask yourself the question ‘are we doing enough to attract all segments of the community?’
If not, then don’t automatically assume you are getting the best and brightest.
Heidi Holmes is the Managing Director of Adage.com.au, Australia’s leading job board for mature age workers. If you would like to find out more about the benefits of mature workers please contact Heidi directly at Heidi@adage.com.au