Maximising Potential: Findings from the Mature Workers in Organisations Survey (MWOS)

Authors: Daniela Andrei, Sharon Parker, Andreea Constantin, Marian Baird, Lucinda Iles, Gretchen Petery, Leah Zoszak, Alison Williams, Shannon Chen

Our research finds that mature workers across Australia feel excluded in today’s workforce and have limited development opportunities and flexible working arrangements, compared to the younger population.

We conducted a national benchmarking survey of mature workers to understand how organisations might better manage and harness the benefits of an ageing workforce. The report shows that many mature workers currently do not feel included in the workplace with, for example, age-biased opportunities for skill development, a limited availability of flexible work that fully caters for workers’ individual needs and preferences, and a somewhat underwhelming degree of knowledge transfer amongst co-workers of different ages.

Organisational policies perceived as less inclusive

Our researchers asked over 2,000 employees from more than 1,500 Australian organisations about inclusive work environments; individual strategies to adapt to physical, emotional and cognitive changes over the life span; and supportive workplace practices, such as age diversity and flexible work arrangements. We found that in general older workers perceive their organisations’ policies as less age inclusive than younger workers.

According to the report, failure to create an inclusive work environment is likely to result in mature workers leaving their organisation early, and less likely to be engaged in their work. When employers provide motivating opportunities, such as fair access to promotions and training, both mature workers and their younger counterparts benefit.

Age stereotypes challenged

The research challenges some common age stereotypes. More than 90 per cent of mature employees aged over 65 years surveyed reported they actively try to develop their capabilities. The research also explored the adaptability component of individual performance in more detail and found that adaptivity improves with age, with both men and women reporting increasingly high levels at older ages. Mature workers are also keen to keep learning.

Flexible work needed

The survey also asked employees about their access to flexible working arrangements, as significant caring responsibilities, such as the need to care for elderly parents or grandparenting responsibilities, have been identified as a key driver for mature employees to consider early retirement. The survey responses indicate a discrepancy between the support that employees feel their organisation has for flexible work and actual reports of access to flexible arrangements.

More positive story for women aged 65+

The report also reflects the largely positive experiences of women who have remained working beyond the age of 65, with higher reports of inclusive, individualised and integrative work practices.

Download the report