Carolyn Gallaway Diversity Dimensions CEO
There’s a lot of focus at the moment on gender diversity which has overshadowed another key aspect of creating an inclusive workplace which is generational diversity, especially mature age.
Recent press coverage of changes to the retirement age and publication of reports such as Willing to Work 2016 and Fact or Fiction? Stereotypes of older Australians 2013 has spiked interest in this sector of the workforce.
Research has shown that the current mature age worker is very different to their parents and as baby boomers have already been instrumental in changing key aspects of society as they’ve moved through the decades. They want to continue to work and contribute but unfortunately are on the receiving end of discrimination and unconscious bias driven by stereotypes that associate getting older with loss e.g. loss of hearing, loss of mental capacity, loss of health.
In the workplace there are common perceptions that mature age workers are not technically savvy and resistant to change. This ignores some significant benefits such as work experience, a willingness to mentor, less time off and the different perspectives their age brings to a position. In fact, with some preparation, younger and older employees can both benefit from working with each other.
For organisations wishing to address mature age diversity, preparation is key.
Before you even think about recruiting you need to get the workplace and workforce ready. In the early days of Diversity Dimensions, I worked with large organisation who had tried to increase the number of mature age consultants in their call centre. Their product appealed to an over 40 market and they wanted consultants who could relate to their market. Made perfect sense, but their early efforts were a dismal failure. Every person recruited left within a matter of months.
I think the major issue was that they saw it purely as a recruitment program and failed to look at the broader issues. A more effective approach would have been to:
• Discuss the reasons behind the recruitment with senior management to make sure they are positively promoting the program internally
• Work with the existing team to introduce the concept and explain why they were recruiting mature age consultants
• Open up a discussion around their perceptions and expectations of the program
• If necessary, invest in an unconscious bias program to tease out any hidden issues
• Review the existing workplace to see if any changes would help new employees settle in
• A recruitment brief that sets realistic expectations for candidates
• An opportunity for regular reviews and feedback once new team members were in place
Although this approach is more time consuming the results are worth the effort. Making similar changes my client developed an effective call centre team where there was respect for everyone’s contribution.
If an organisation is serious about addressing generational diversity and recruiting mature workers, it needs to walk the walk. To make diversity and inclusion work, it’s the preparation that makes all the difference.
Although I have traditionally been a “behind the scenes” CEO of my company I feel it’s time to demystify and take the jargon out of the Diversity industry. For the past 12 months we have been working on a program that will cost effectively give everyone in an organisation access to five diversity modules that are delivered on line. It’s all about Australian voices and Australian stories and the chance to challenge and affirm values with a healthy dose of “I didn’t know that”?