The Age Divide: Why mentoring is key to retaining and supporting older workers

The Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) and the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) have released their fifth report on the employment climate for older workers in Australia. According to the report, older workers aged 55 and above account for almost a fifth (20%) of the Australian workforce, but they only make up 4% of the growth in employment levels over the past year. This is a significant shift, given that their participation rate had been increasing from 44.8% in February 1995 to 69.4% in February 2023, according official data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The report also highlights that there is evidence of ageist employment practices in some Australian workplaces, with around one in six organisations actively excluding older workers from the recruitment process. Furthermore, while almost two-thirds (65%) of HR professionals surveyed say they are currently experiencing recruitment difficulties, only a quarter (25%) report that they are open to hiring people aged 65 and above “to a large extent.”

The report suggests that employers should consider older workers more carefully when developing diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. Shockingly, only around half of the organisations surveyed offer continued access to training and development opportunities for older workers, which is the lowest mark since the survey began.

Employing and retaining older workers can contribute more to easing employment shortages worldwide. If employers and governments can maximise the potential of older workers as part of an age-diverse workforce, this could help drive more diverse workplaces, reduce employee shortages, and strengthen economic performance.

How mentoring can help

One of the key benefits of using mentoring to retain older workers is the opportunity to tap into their experience and expertise. Older workers have accumulated years of knowledge, skills and wisdom that can be invaluable to the organization. By asking them to mentor others, companies can ensure that this knowledge and experience is passed on to the next generation of workers.

Asking older workers to mentor others can also be an effective retention strategy. Older workers who feel valued and respected are more likely to stay with the organization. By offering them the opportunity to mentor others and providing them with relevant mentoring skills development, companies are showing that they recognize the value of their experience and expertise. This can be a powerful motivator for older workers to stay with the organization.

Moreover, mentoring can also provide older workers with a sense of purpose and fulfillment in their work. As they transition to retirement or a new role within the organization, mentoring can offer them a way to stay engaged and make a meaningful contribution to the organization.

To encourage older workers to become mentors, companies can offer incentives such as recognition programs or opportunities for advancement. They can also provide training and support to ensure that older workers have the skills and confidence they need to be effective mentors.

In conclusion, asking older workers to mentor others can be a powerful tool for retaining them in the organization. By tapping into their experience and expertise, companies can ensure that this knowledge is passed on to the next generation of workers. Mentoring can also provide older workers with a sense of purpose and fulfillment in their work, which can be a powerful motivator for them to stay with the organization.

© Melissa Richardson 2023

View our webinar: The Age Divide in Employment




A senior mentee is mentoring a young mentor. They are both looking at a laptop.


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