Boomers redefining retirement

Baby boomers are redefining retirement and the workplace. Luke Fitzpatrick, who lectures in international business at the University of Sydney, offers these tips to older employees and employers.


A survey by Mercer found that only 32 per cent of people expected to completely stop working at the point of retirement. And a report by the McKinsey Global Institute found that over-65s accounted for seven to 16 per cent of the ‘independent workforce’ or ‘gig economy’, debunking the notion that millenials dominate this portion of the labour market.

Whether these trends are due to economic needs or choice, society should expect fewer full-time retirements compared with years gone by.


A World Economic Forum report, Investing in (and for) Our Future, says that the impact of this shift is significant for the economy, and for employers and governments.

“Older-age individuals wishing to stay employed will have to be accommodated by employers and governments, through retraining and the provision of incentives to employers to retain/hire older-age workers,” it says.

Late last year, the Federal Government funded a national rollout of the Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers Program, but for things to really change, businesses need to sit up and take notice of common misconceptions about older workers.

Over-50s often find looking for work difficult. According to the University of South Australia’s Centre for Workplace Excellence, this group is likely to spend twice as long as a 24-year-old looking for a job.

Yet, over-50s are embracing personal technology, and an increasing number say they are confident they can keep up with future innovations.

And 35 per cent of all new businesses consist of ‘seniorpreneur’ start-ups.

So, how should employers and society generally be reacting to this trend?

Working with older Australians, not against them
Older workers generally have a lot of experience, knowledge, skills and contacts.

Today’s businesses claim they want more soft skills from their workers. Well … older workers have soft skills by the bucketload. They bring:

  • time management
  • stress management
  • conflict management
  • creativity
  • persuasion
  • communication skills
  • emotional intelligence
  • focused productivity
  • storytelling
  • change management.

Young workers inject energy, hunger, agility and enthusiasm into a business, but older employees can offer all of the above plus wisdom, stability and a whole lot more. This mix of old and new builds a team that would be diverse in experience, background and personality.

Challenges are inevitable when integrating different life experiences, communication preferences and technological comfort levels. With this in mind, employers should try to:

  • Promote employee mobility and cross-training: Consider cross-training for different positions with a focus on the development of transferable skills. This will help keep the younger generations engaged while honouring the experience and tenure of older workers.
  • Vary their management approach: In general, each demographic has a preferred way of working, learning and conveying information. Employers can address differing preferences by taking a multi-pronged approach to communication, skills training, change management and employee appreciation.
  • Create opportunities for intergenerational mingling: Left to their own devices, employees tend to bunch up in age-based groups. Develop collaborative projects, introduce team-building activities and pair younger employees with older ones as often as possible.
  • Remind teams that diversity produces a better result: Focus on the end result rather than on how teams get there. Remove potential biases and entrenched ways of thinking. And allow employees to work in a way that suits them best.

What do you think? Do you feel you are keeping pace with digital technology or are you worried about being left behind? Do you know of any ‘seniorpreneurs’ Do you believe workplaces are adjusting to being less ageist?

Luke Fitzpatrick covers fintech trends on Forbes and teaches international business at the University of Sydney.

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Written by Luke Fitzpatrick