We live in an ageing world. People living longer and better lives is one of the greatest achievements of modern times. By 2030, one in six of us will be over 60.
And yet, perceptions about the value of mature age workers are distorted and outdated, and career and recruitment systems are designed against hiring mature age people. Ageist beliefs, attitudes and practices are entrenched into recruitment processes that arbitrarily eliminate or discriminate against the best-qualified candidates because of their age. If you're 45 or older and looking for a job, chances are you have already experienced this.
Right now, there is a massive Australian talent crunch (compounded by Australia closing its borders for the past two years). According to Korn Ferry, our Level A talent deficit will deteriorate at a rate of 11.3% annually to 2.2 million by 2030 – equivalent to 43.8% of Australia's Level A workforce (in 2030). According to their model, by 2025, demand for Level A workers will outstrip supply by 13.6 million workers globally. This will rise to 35.1 million Level A workers by 2030 across all sectors.
In case you're not sure, Level A talent are people who have good communication skills, leadership skills, teamwork skills, interpersonal skills, self-management skills, organisational skills, computer skills, problem-solving skills, open-mindedness, and a strong work ethic (Indeed.com, 2020).
And right now, there is a significant talent bank of candidates out there with precisely these skills, talents, and abilities who are looking for work. They're known as mature age workers, aged 45 and over, and many studies bear out their true employment value.
The Australian Institute of Management identifies the ‘diversity dividend' of recruiting and retaining mature age workers as better decision making, increased sustainability and better adaptability, higher productivity, a closer connection with customers and suppliers, and a broader reach into new markets, locally, and globally.
Mercer (2019) finds mature age workers lower costs because they are less likely to leave, increase the productivity of those around them through knowledge sharing, strengthen group cohesion, collaboration, and resiliency, and enable innovation and strengthen customer connection.
Despite all this and the Australian talent crunch, employers continue to assess and recruit candidates in the same old way – starting their search with conventional hires like recent grads and mid-level professionals, and not really considering anyone aged 45 or over because they're ‘too old'. Not that this is ever explicitly stated – ‘Sorry, you're too over-qualified' is the #1 reason employers give for not hiring a mature age worker (COTA, 2018).
There is too much talk and press about ageism in the workplace and not enough action. The missed opportunity costs of not hiring people who bring unrivalled knowledge, skills, experience, and many acquired abilities are immeasurable.
Not to mention the tough, everyday reality of this so-called ‘last acceptable form of discrimination' when you take a walk in the shoes of a 54-year-old who's applied for 26 jobs and not been given even one interview – and the effect that has on their self-esteem, confidence, pride, and joy.
It is unthinkable that people who lose their jobs in their mid-40s may live up to another forty years without paid employment. Moreover, people who are willing to work but are denied the opportunity are also denied the personal and social benefits that work brings – dignity, independence, social connectedness, and the sense of purpose that comes from employing their skills to rebuild the economy.
Mature age workers are the #1 corporate talent blind spot, and the time for employers to kill their recruitment sacred cows is now as we emerge from 2021 and the COVID19 crisis.
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