How HR can get the best out of older employees

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Over the next 15 years, high-income countries will see their aged population (those over 55) increase by an incredible 25 per cent and, according to one leading expert, employers that fail to adapt will undoubtedly be left behind.

“Ultimately any business or organisation will only reach its maximum potential if it harnesses all the positive characteristics of each employee,” said Age Concern CEO Stephanie Clare.

“To find these positive characteristics, decision makers must involve their older employees in every way they can,” she added. “If they don’t, they will miss opportunities to develop.”

Clare says some employers may need to take their head out of the sand and recognise that New Zealand has an aging population.

“Health care is constantly getting better so people are more and more likely to be working past the retirement age,” she stressed. “If this is the case, employers that start being inclusive when it comes to age will be respected in the long run.”

While New Zealand is currently ranked second among OECD countries for its ability to harness the talents of older workers, the PwC report that placed it there pointed to some possible areas of improvement – including stamping out labour market discrimination.

“Age discrimination does exist in the workplace and in the interview process,” Clare told HRM. “In a perfect world it wouldn’t.”

According to the Wellington-based CEO, employers that are looking to get the best out of their older employees already have everything they need to improve.

“Give older employees every opportunity to speak up when making decisions,” she suggested. “Ask them for their advice. Talk with them about their careers, talk to them about how things were done in the past and how systems and technology has progressed in the workplace. Use this information to set a path into the future.

“As the old saying goes – ‘how can you understand where you are now if you don’t understand where you came from?’”

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