Home' micenet eMag : micenet AUSTRALIA October November 2014 Contents Bias against older workers endemic and ‘quite
frightening’, according to Age Discrimination
Commissioner Susan Ryan.
This is a headline that the ABC News website ran on
September 17 with Susan Ryan making these comments
following interim findings by Roy Morgan Research into employer
attitudes to hiring older workers.
Susan went on to say that the reluctance of Australian
employers to hire older workers is costing the country about $10
billion each year, and that she was fearful bias against workers
over 50 is much worse than previously thought.
So this led me to start thinking about my own experiences
within the events industry, an industry typically seen as more
suited to a younger demographic, and my dealings with client
companies and their attitudes to older candidates.
I recall having the occasional employer tell me they will not
consider an older candidate I have presented (who seemingly
has the skills required for the role), because they won’t fit their
team or company culture. I have also been told that my older
candidate is over qualified for a role or that they will get bored
over time even though that candidate has been fully briefed on
the job. I have taken in a job brief and been told that the
company culture can be best described as “young and funky” or
words to that effect, or that the average age of their team is in
the mid 20’s to mid 30’s range.
Now I am not one for conspiracy theories and all these client
comments must be taken at face value as factual and
considered responses, and they alone do not prove there is any
discrimination going on out there. But in light of Susan Ryan’s
comments it does provide some food for thought.
As such, I believe it is important to raise once again this notion
of cultural fit; something I have discussed before. One of the key
factors that determine the culture of an organisation is the
individual personalities and experiences of your employees and
the resulting behaviours formed by them as a group. Therefore,
culture is to a large extent made up of the sum of its parts and
to my mind the best cultures, like the best societies, have
diversity as a key component. So that can be diversity across an
individual’s personality, experience, ambition, interests, heritage,
marital status, gender, age, etc.
So returning to the broader employment market, Susan Ryan
did raise a few suggestions that could assist the plight of older
workers’ employment prospects.
She stated that as workers approach 50, they should get a
“career check-up” to map out their career prospects over at
least the next decade of their working life. They should ask
whether they can continue to do their job - will they be able to;
do they want to; and if they need to change what else can they
do and how will they find another job? Susan added that training
institutions could play a central role here, with support from
governments, as they have good relationships with local
employers and understand their markets.
She said that businesses too, need to undergo a “sea
change” to see the value in employing older workers. She added
that employers need to target the best person for the job, and
not judge a person by the number of birthdays they have had
(and I might add that more birthdays should mean more years of
valuable and relevant work experience). Susan also questions
the need for an influx of foreign workers on 457 working visas,
when so many older Australians are still willing to work. She
recognises that serious skills shortages do sometimes exist but
finds it hard to believe this is across the board, when you look at
the numbers of unemployed people in their 50s and 60s, the
numbers of people who are willing to train and those who are
willing to move for a job. m
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John Hackett discusses the value in employing older workers.
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