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What are the myths (and facts) on ageing and work?

The Australian population is ageing. This has led to a lot of public policy and debate around the need to reduce welfare costs and respond to projected shortfalls in labour as older workers retire in large numbers.

Prolonging the working life in an inclusive way, and promoting solidarity of different employee life stages, are key issues in the workplace.

To help [organisations] with this, Professor Philip Taylor from Federation University Australia and DCA are tackling some misconceptions around age and work.

Myth #1: Age discrimination towards older workers is endemic
Reality: Age discrimination is potentially faced by all workers

While it is often characterised as a problem solely experienced by older people, in fact, young people experience age discrimination too. Age discrimination manifests in many forms – a lack of employment, under-employment, during recruitment, lack of career opportunities, and stereotyping.

Myth #2: Different generations have different orientations to work
Reality: It is employee life stage (e.g. school leaver, working parent, graduating to retirement) that makes a big difference – not generation

Generational constructs such as ‘Millennial’ or ‘Boomer’ are caricatures which provide a poor basis for making employment decisions. Instead, providing age inclusion over the entire employee lifecycle is key – from school leavers looking for their first work experience, to people seeking return to work after raising children, through to older workers wanting to transition to retirement.

Myth #3: Older people are a homogenous group
Reality: Older and younger people have intersectional parts of their identity which impacts on how they experience inclusion at work

People aren’t one-dimensional. Whether people are older or younger, it is how the multiple aspects of their identity intersect that impacts on how they experience inclusion at work.

Myth #4: Older workers outperform younger ones in terms of their reliability, loyalty, work ethic and life experience
Reality: Performance is not linked to age – except in very rare instances

These are age stereotypes. A better starting point for managers would be to not assume correlation between age and performance. Age-based decision-making is not only discriminatory, it also has no competitive advantage.

Myth #5: Older people have a lifetime of experience that managers should recognise
Reality: Relevant experience, is more valuable than experience, of itself

Life experience may sometimes be valued for a given role, but not always. It is better to consider what relevant experience people have and what, if any, gaps may need to be filled.

Myth #6: Younger workers are more dynamic, entrepreneurial, and tech savvy than older workers
Reality: Older people have a lot to offer the modern workplace

It should not be assumed that people have a given quality just because they are older or younger. Workplace policies should instead be built on a foundation of age neutrality.

Myth #7: Younger workers feel entitled and won’t stick around
Reality: Younger workers are more likely to be in insecure employment and to experience unemployment

Research shows that there is little link between age and someone’s commitment to work. This is just another example of an unfounded ageist stereotype.

Myth #8: Older people who stay on at work are taking jobs from younger people
Reality: Increasing the employment of older workers does not harm, and may even benefit, younger people’s employment prospects

Actually, research demonstrates that, across the OECD countries, increases in rates of older people’s employment are associated with higher youth employment rates or demonstrate no relationship at all. While young and old are sometimes characterised as being in conflict, the reality is that we are all in this together.

This article was written by Professor Philip Taylor. DCA members can read the full myth-buster on the Diversity Council Australia website.

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Posted in The world @work

Myriad differences, multiple benefits: Embracing multiculturalism in the workplace

What an eye opening experience moving from Albania – an Eastern European country where 97% of the population were native born Albanians, to Toronto – one of the most multicultural cities in the world, where over 180 languages are spoken…

It was a move that exposed me to people of myriad different cultural backgrounds, which is how I came to understand the importance of multiculturalism in school, work and the wider community.

Bringing together a diverse group of people who may have different values, beliefs, traditions and family backgrounds can be challenging. However, there are many, often reported, positive benefits to multiculturalism in the world @work. Respected advisor to the Australian Government Josef Assaf AO says, “Cultural diversity confers social and economic dividends; it creates jobs and generates profits and, equally importantly, it promotes artistic exchange and connects us with the rest of the world.”[1]

Here are five reasons why I think multiculturalism is important in the workplace:

  1. Multiculturalism expands your cultural awareness
    Working alongside people from a variety of cultural backgrounds can expand your cultural awareness. Once you expand your horizon, you will improve your knowledge about the world beyond your own borders. You’ll no longer think that all of Eastern Europe is the same, or that everyone there eats potatoes! Your desire to learn and expand your knowledge about different cultures will not be solely restricted to traveling with Lonely Planet; it can be satisfied with daily chats with your colleague from Slovenia or Singapore at lunch time.
  2. Multiculturalism builds respect and better understanding of cultural differences
    Diversity in the work environment can contribute to development and positive experiences as it can lead to increased conversations. Communications and conversations that emerge throughout the organisation lead to respect among employees who have a better understanding and appreciation of their co-workers, the viewpoints they bring to the team, and appropriate interactions.
  3. Multiculturalism improves customer service
    In recruitment, our clients and candidates come from all walks of life. I am a strong believer that having a multicultural workforce shows an inclusive face to the public. Clients and candidates have confidence in someone who ‘speaks their language’. Whether that is a native speaker or simply an understanding that specific holidays, customs or familial commitments impact us at work, even a small business can demonstrate its ability to engage with global talent in the market.
  4. Multiculturalism improves your problem solving skills
    Different cultures have different ways of approaching problems. In a workplace with a diverse cultural backgrounds, people approach situations with their own unique perspectives. A variety of viewpoints brings together a wide array of ideas that enhance the capability of the team.
  5. Did someone say food?
    Last but not least, when working in a multicultural workplace, you’re likely to see a variety of edible treats, which hopefully your colleagues are willing to share. Speaking from experience, I can say that I didn’t mind all the compliments I received about my Russian salad.

What are some of the benefits you have seen from embracing multiculturalism in your workplace?

 

[1] Diversity in the Workplace, Joseph Assaf, Department of Social Services, 16 May 2018

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Posted in Interchange Bench, The world @work

Why corporates should take leadership on social issues

One of the top international accounting firms hosts a networking event to facilitate a graduate mentoring program that supports aspiring LGBTI business professionals. The world’s strongest global law firm brand facilitates a panel discussion on how to progress marriage equality in Australia. A big four bank runs a major advertising campaign to address the gender salary gap and advocates equal pay for women. A major telco (along with another two major banks) introduces a hijab in company colours as part of their corporate uniform.

Why should the likes of EY, Baker & McKenzie, ANZ and Optus care about social issues? Plenty has been written about why a social conscience makes good business sense. You only have to look at the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or Diversity and Inclusion policies of any these leading organisations to see they’ve taken a strong proactive stance. EY, for example, says, “Our focus on diversity and inclusiveness is integral to how we serve our clients, develop our people and play a leadership role in our communities. When we act on our commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, we maximise the power of our differences to achieve better business results, for ourselves and for our clients.”

It’s not just clever marketing. While there’s some risk for brands associating with politically sensitive subjects, the risk is far greater for organisations who shy away from taking the initiative on important issues. It is proven that organisations who show leadership on social issues:

  • Improve their public perception and increase their public profile
  • Attract, engage and retain the best employees
  • Appeal to a wider customer base and enjoy better relationships with customers

Professionals in private employment make up a significant proportion of the workforce. Our products and services have the potential to reach customers across the entire population. While arguably our views are represented at various levels of government by those representatives we’ve elected, I firmly believe there is an onus in the corporate sector to lead conversations that will shape the kind of world we’d like to work in, and live in.

What evidence have you seen of the commercial and social benefits of your organisation’s approach to corporate social responsibility? How has your organisation demonstrated leadership on a social issue or positively represented your Point of View?

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Posted in The world @work