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Workforce Ageing Workshop— Highlights Package transcript

SPEAKER:  This is an issue that's very critical to the country in a productivity sense because I'm sure you've heard me say, and many other people say, we have about five people working in Australia for every person aged over 65, but by 2050 that will be 2.7 people working for every person aged over 65.  So there's lots of things that we need to do to close that gap.  We simply can't afford to have parts of the workforce that could be working and want to work, we can't afford as a nation to have those people excluded in some way or that we're not accessing that expertise in the most strategic way we possibly can. 

MR O'CONNOR:  It's not just about older workers, it's about managing across the four generations that we have in the APS workforce. Out of the APS 200 project last May, the Secretaries Board endorsed a framework for action, and the framework for action gives us the four dimensions for the areas of focus there. 

SPEAKER:  So, we're trying to have some strategies where we match up our staff who are closer to retirement with staff who are, you know, just beginning their careers, and that helps with, you know, inspiring young people and giving them guidance.  Mentoring is really important to a lot of Gen Y and younger as probably a lot of you know, and it also helps with people as they're leaving the workforce, the knowledge transfer and, you know, helping to retain their sense of importance and value within the organisation as well. 

SPEAKER:  Top factors that would encourage mature age workers to stay - and I don't want to pre-empt the discussion, this was our department - - to stay for at least the next two financial years included financial incentives, including pay, superannuation provisions, location of the job and flexible working arrangements that allow work/life balance.  Other factors that ranked highly were to have a good manager, the work environment, was treated fairly, positive, inclusive work environment, and a manageable workload. 

Conversely, we asked what pushed people from the workforce, and again a list that's not particularly surprising - not feeling valued or appreciated, their skills not being used, negative stereotypes about aged workers. 

 As a result of that, we have started to develop a mature workforce strategy, and it will link into the work ability program that you heard before. 

SPEAKER:  Look, what I wanted to talk about is the area of our department that we're focusing on is our rehabilitation and compensation area.  It is a critical business area.  It's probably our key customer service area, and it's got challenges of changing demographics and expectations of our clients as the new serving members are coming through and having more to do with the department.  And it's an area where our staff deal with really complex legislation. 

Essentially, the benefits of it where we started to see a change in the culture in these workplaces in terms of these people wanting to share their knowledge and transfer their knowledge, we saw, you know, a huge improvement in people doing proper coaching and on-the-job training and supporting new people coming into the area.  Some of these people became more confident and more willing to delegate work, which is what they wouldn't do it in the past.  A lot of the higher level ones just basically took the more complex cases with them, so people coming in at the lower levels weren't dealing with any of the complex cases, they just continued to deal with the simple cases.  And many of the older staff in these areas became really quite revitalised and started I think to feel as if they were really being valued. But also importantly, the message it gave them was that what - - your knowledge and experience is so important, we want to give you the skills to be able to pass that on properly. 

SPEAKER:  So, ways to deal with having a balance across the workforce, you know, we're really about getting better flexibility, job design, and dealing with specialist knowledge. 

SPEAKER:  Something that we were very attracted to as a group, was creating a culture of a sense of purpose.  So, irrespective of whether we were able to retain our people or bring them back in on an irregular basis perhaps, we thought giving an individual a sense of purpose, encouraging them to transfer knowledge either in the workplace and then elevating themselves beyond that transfer of knowledge. 

SPEAKER:  So, whether your  agency is developing policy or providing service delivery, that's enriched by having an agency demographic which can reflect the views of a wide age group rather than a narrow one. 

SPEAKER:  And then we talked about the opportunities, we thought that the human capital paper that's circulated around the APS - I think it's monthly, Ian - there's an opportunity there to talk more about research on demographics and business cases for initiatives, because we saw that as being one of the barriers, the fact that there's a real lack of HR and workforce planning ability to actually sell the business case to support some of the initiatives that we'd need to in order to attract and also retain our older employees.  So, vulnerabilities, impacts, and those sorts of things, making sure that we can actually sell the business case to the senior executives. 

SPEAKER:  In terms of what we're already doing, we are looking across agencies at flexible working practices, and we had a brief mention of the fact that maybe 20 or 25 years' ago around the table we would have been talking about carers and people with young kids, so it's interesting that as the demographics change the challenges are moving on, and we also mention the fact that we might have these things available in the law now, for example non-ongoing employment and part-time, but there probably needs to be quite a bit of cultural change before those things really get adopted by managers in agencies.  So, there is a lot to be done not just in terms of a business case but also in terms of cultural change, and I think that's an opportunity as well as a barrier, and we can do more to recognise different phases in people's careers. 

SPEAKER:  We have a significant number of teleworkers who work almost exclusively, or the majority of their time, at locations around Australia.  They are of all ages and tele-working actually is eminently suited to mature age workers who might wish to work part-time, without coming into the office, might want to work in a job that's been redesigned, so there's less pressure, but also maybe they want to relocate to the area where they wish to spend their retirement years but they can continue to work.

Page last updated: 23 Dec 2013