By 2020, Government figures predict that a quarter of the workforce in New Zealand will be older than 55 and Diversity Works NZ Chief Executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie says these older workers offer a solution to the skills and labour shortage many industry sectors are facing.
Older workers are a vital resource in terms of practical experience and the ability to pass on information and train younger workers. There is very little substitute for experience, no matter what industry you work in.
While those aged over 55 sometimes report finding it hard to secure new employment, the good news is that overall, there is little evidence of discrimination in the most recent Diversity New Zealand survey.
It says that 73% of employers are perceived to be treating their older workers the same manner as the rest of their workforce and have no specific strategies in place to engage with older workers. While this is great in terms of a lack of discrimination, there may be opportunities being overlooked, in terms of capitalising on the experience and loyalty of this sector of the workforce.
The survey highlighted that only six percent of businesses actively seem to value the experience of older workers. While 95% offer some form of flexibility to their entire workforce, only four percent tailor specific arrangements to their over 55 staff.
Furthermore, only two per cent of businesses offered training aimed at this age group.
Michael Barnett, a director of the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce & Industry, says that businesses that ignore older workers are being short-sighted. “Companies that implement strategies designed to increase positive engagement with staff heading into the later stage of their working lives will be better placed to harness the benefits these older workers offer,” he says.
The NZ Diversity Survey, which was initiated in 2013 to create a better understanding of the key diversity challenges facing New Zealand organisations, is carried out twice a year by Diversity Works New Zealand in partnership with the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce.