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Employment of Mature Workers

Sylvia Wilmhurst - Bay Venues EmployeeTauranga businesses need to plan for an ageing workforce if they want to avoid skill shortages, says Ciska Vogelzang.

Ciska, who is a principal at Avisa, was a guest speaker at a Tauranga Chamber of Commerce event this week that focused on leveraging the talents of mature workers.

It is a subject close to her heart – she is an organisational psychologist with a special interest in helping organisations realise the benefits of an ageing workforce.

Labour force figures from the Office of Senior Citizens tell us that, while in 2011 those aged over 65 made up five per cent of the workforce, that percentage is projected to more than double by 2031, Ciska says. In less than 15 years, 12 per cent of New Zealanders aged over 65 will be in the workforce.

“Smart Growth employment projections indicate that total employment is expected to grow in Tauranga up to 46 per cent, and in the Western Bay District by 33 per cent by 2050.

“That is a lot of jobs that will need to be filled and there are not enough young people coming through due to the baby boomers’ hump,” Ciska says.

Indications are an ageing workforce will be the result if businesses want to avoid staff and skill shortages.

One local business already realising the value of a more mature workforce is Bay Venues.  The organisation encourages mature workers to regularly check the vacancies listed on its website, as age diversity is welcomed.

Bay Venues human resources manager Robyn Mills says mature workers are sought after as they bring many strengths to an organisation such as reliability, commitment, a wealth of skills and experience, flexibility, and an interest in mentoring younger people.

“There is also a community aspect to a lot of the work we do, and giving back to the community is a feature that often appeals to more mature people. We have a variety of roles ranging from full-time to part-time and can cater for those mature workers who may only be looking for 10 or 15 hours of work a week to stay active and involved,” she says.

Ciska agrees, saying many older people love to work – they just don’t want to work five days a week.

“We don’t tend to ‘retire, retire’ so much as we did in the past – for example, working full-time one day and then full-time retired the next. People still want to be involved.”

Employers need to shelve their stereotypes and debunk some myths around older workers, she says.

“For example, there is no correlation between performance / productivity and age.  It is not true that those over 55 are, by in large, reluctant to train, are dis-interested in technology, and won’t adapt to workplace changes.

“More mature workers tend to have high work and life experience, lower absenteeism, and engagement is highest among workers over 55, across all industries.

“Baby boomers are a little different to Millennials. It is very important for Baby Boomers, in general, to be engaged in making a difference. It is important to them to use their experience,” Ciska says.

Bay Venues Papamoa Community Centre venue supervisor Sylvia Wilmshurst is 65, happy to still be working full-time, and an example of someone who doesn’t see age as a barrier to workplace learning. When 50, she pursued a Business Studies Diploma in Sport Management. She enjoyed it so much she then did a Human Resource Management paper. Promotion at Bay Venues came quickly, thanks to her displayed willingness to upskill and to “commitment, hard work and reliability,” she says.

“Bay Venues does have a variety of jobs for older workers, and I have been given the opportunity to extend my skills.

“I think it is important, as we age, to keep fit and have a healthy lifestyle that enables us to continue working and be reliable, with plenty of energy to make a difference.

“Healthier lifestyles - and a broader range of career opportunities - means the 60 of yesterday is the 50 of today,” Sylvia says.

Sylvia hopes work places will increasingly recognise the knowledge, skills and experience that mature workers offer, as well as stability and commitment.

Also speaking at the Chamber of Commerce event was Kate Ross, the founder of Wise Ones, which is a new website platform connecting the wise with the workforce.

“Our population is ageing and so is our workforce. We are also living longer, are healthier and have more retirement years to pay for. A balance between work and leisure is both attractive and necessary for many – it keeps people involved, active and engaged, and the bank balance ticking over.”

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