5G workforce: Age diversity key to business success

Monday, 17 October 2022


    Want better connection and productivity in your workplace? Then 5G is the answer. But it’s not a tech solution. It’s about people.

    Most of us understand 5G as the next upgrade for the world’s mobile networks. However, 5G also describes a workforce that has five generations working together, and for the first time in our history Australia’s workforce is now 5G with Silents, Boomers and Generations X, Y and Z all clocking in.

    This is due to Australians living longer and working to older ages. In fact, National Skills Commission (NSC) figures show that over the last 40 years, the share of people aged 55 and over in the Australian workforce has almost doubled. That’s an increase of close to two million people. And with an ageing population, the only way for this trend is up

    It’s been a quiet revolution which Australia’s Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson AO GAICD says has important implications for business, as well as older people in our community.

    “An age-diverse workforce is no longer optional, it’s now the norm. This means the smart money is already providing workplace cultures that are attractive to employees of all ages, including the rapidly increasing number of workers who are 55-plus years of age”.

    Dr Patterson says there’s significant research “which clearly demonstrates the valuable financial, productivity and cultural benefits that older employees bring to a business”.

    OECD analysis shows a direct link between a company’s productivity and the number of its employees over 55. German research shows that greater age diversity among a company’s employees increases the likelihood of achieving innovation outcomes.

    Furthermore, studies show that practical intelligence – tacit institutional knowledge garnered over time – is incredibly valuable to problem-solving and business management. And because older employees are often motivated by the need for security, they provide workforce stability through low rates of absenteeism and turnover, a boon for sectors with high turnover rates such as hospitality, retail and other service industries.

    Dr Patterson says older employees also provide a ready-made solution to Australia’s current worker shortage and skills gap. “Currently over 170,000 people aged 55-64 are unemployed, but would prefer to be working, providing a valuable untapped talent pool for the vacancies that businesses are struggling to fill.

    NSC data shows over 60 per cent of recent qualified applicants were deemed unsuitable by employers, due to lack of experience and skills, poor interview presentation and inadequate communication skills.

    “Many older workers can offer the knowledge, skills and wisdom that businesses are currently looking for. Employers just need to change their perspective, trust the data and stop buying into false myths about older workers.”

    Dr Patterson says creating an effective 5G or multi-generational workforce requires a range of strategies, starting with having clear policies around age discrimination, recruitment, training and flexible working arrangements.

    “Some older workers are only seeking part-time work, while others may require some extra learning and development. These considerations are routinely extended to other workers, so extending them to older workers should be no big deal.

    “Education is also key. Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, ageism is prevalent in our society. Research shows that training, mentoring and cross-generational knowledge-transfer programs are highly effective at promoting intergenerational empathy and reducing age-related prejudice and discrimination.

    “Properly implemented, all these things will help businesses create an environment and culture that is attractive for older workers, and which will activate all the benefits that a diverse and inclusive multigenerational workforce can deliver.”

    The Australian Human Rights Commission is currently partnering with the federal Department of Employment and Workplace Relations on two new projects which will provide employers with strategic resources for engaging with older workers. The projects are expected to be completed in 2023.

    In the meantime, the commission provides a range of how-to guides and practical tools for building and managing a successful multigenerational workforce:

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