Why age discrimination might be holding your business back

By Ron Maxwell - CEO

When talking about workplace and employment trends, the focus is often on younger generations. However, with over 90,000 job seekers aged 55 plus, we could just be missing an opportunity that could benefit us all. 

Working in employment services, I see first-hand the benefits mature-aged job seekers offer businesses. I also see it every day, here at VERTO. We have a number of mature-aged workers who are the backbone of our organisation and are loyal, hardworking, and bring a wealth of experience.    

So it boggles the mind, in some ways, that age discrimination is rife in Australian organisations today. Sadly, the numbers don't lie: 30 per cent of Australian businesses admit that they are reluctant to hire an older worker.  

Intergenerational misunderstanding has long been a social issue (we've all thought our parents don't understand us at some point), but with four generations in the workforce, it's now become an employment one. 

Often, generational stereotypes come from a single negative experience; that older worker who couldn’t adapt to change or that younger one who was lazy. However, with the average manager now aged 30 years, the impact of these misconceptions may be more likely to extend to employment opportunities for older workers.  

The sad reality is that by overlooking mature workers, businesses are missing out on a diverse and experienced talent pool that can offer so much. Mature-aged workers can have a positive impact on everything from productivity and culture to customer loyalty and competitive advantage. 

Technology can be taught, interpersonal skills can't 

There are a few misconceptions about older workers, the most common being that they can't learn or are stuck in their ways. VERTO works with older employees and job seekers through our Skills Checkpoint and Career Transition Assistance programs every day, and we see the opposite.  

It's true that older workers may need some upskilling around technology, simply because they aren't 'digital natives' who had it at their fingertips from birth. However, this doesn’t mean they can't or won't learn.  

You can train people to learn new processes and technologies, but interpersonal skills are not so easy to develop, and mature-aged workers often bring a wealth of them. With careers that often span more than three decades, you can guarantee they have encountered every type of personality and learnt a thing or two about working with them. This type of experience can't be bought, and at a time when it is often lamented that young people lack interpersonal skills, it's easy to see the benefits this could bring to a team. 

Loyal, stable and reliable team members 

Another misconception is that it's not worth training an older worker as they will retire soon. But with Millennials known as the job-hopping generation, it's more than possible that your younger workforce will leave you sooner to work for your competition. On the flip side, older workers tend to show loyalty, stability and reliability.  

Interestingly, having older workers in your team may increase customer loyalty too.  According to research by the Human Rights Commission, businesses with a diverse and inclusive workforce see an increase in both customer satisfaction and loyalty. This is often attributed to customers wanting to use businesses whose workforces reflect them. 

Diversity and inclusion have also been shown to increase employee productivity and engagement, key factors in reducing turnover, and attracting and retaining staff.   

Tap into a diverse talent pool  

Over the last decade, focus has been put on gender and ethnicity as ways to increase workplace diversity, and rightly so, but it might be time to add age to that discussion. There are some great programs out there to upskill or retrain older workers, such as the Skills Checkpoint and Career Transition Assistance programs offered by VERTO, but it would be great to see more businesses come to the table too.

An older worker can offer your business so many benefits, from a more engaged, diverse culture, to productivity, lived experience, and interpersonal skills. It may be time to consider how you can change your recruitment processes to tap into this diverse talent pool. 

If you are interested in finding out how VERTO can match you with a mature-aged job seeker to reap the benefits in your business, contact our Employment Services team on 1300 4 VERTO or via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..