Workers over 45 lack opportunities to mentor young staff, says survey

by L&D27 Jan 2016

Australian workplaces are failing to provide older workers with opportunities to transfer their skills to younger staff, according to the new Wasted Potential survey.

The survey involved the input of 1671 members of Professionals Australia, an organisation which includes engineers, managers, pharmacists, scientists, veterinarians and information technology professionals.

The results found that 67.7% of professionals aged over 45 do not get the opportunity to actively mentor younger staff.

Chris Walton, CEO of Professionals Australia, said this was a particularly concerning statistic.

“It is critical that mature workers have structured opportunities to train and mentor graduates and younger professionals,” he said.

“The supervision of early career professionals by more senior professionals helps younger workers develop sound professional judgment and apply the methods and techniques they have learnt during tertiary studies,” said Walton.

The results also showed that stereotyping mature-age professionals was prevalent, with 52.1% of respondents agreeing there was an assumption in their workplace that older workers are ‘resistant to change’.

Stereotyping was also shown by the fact that 40.8% respondents said that there is an assumption that older workers do not have up-to-date IT skills.

Moreover, 41.0% of respondents reported that their employer did not currently offer development or training for mature-age professionals, while 24.2% said their employer was less prepared to invest in development for older staff than younger staff.

Additionally, 19.8% agreed or strongly agreed that they had been sidelined in their workplace from promotion due in part or in full to their age.

Walton added that this report finds employers are not investing strategically in proper skills transfer, mentoring and succession planning.

“Employers must make sure workers in their 50s and 60s have meaningful career progression opportunities if we are going to retain expertise and achieve full workforce participation with an aging population,” said Walton.

“Experienced professionals will drive future prosperity in a knowledge economy. They have the flexibility, life experience and strategic understanding to deliver across complex projects.

“The vast majority of people over the age of 45 (74%) want to be working, and have a contribution to make, so barriers to their participation need to be addressed.”