infusions of inclusion.

07/09/2016 11:16:01

In the hunt for talent, the time has come to develop policies and practices that embrace under-tapped sections of the Australian population. 

Broadening the talent pool through inclusion is one way organisations can counter the shrinking of Australia’s working age population.

Government figures show that in 1975 there were 7.3 people of traditional working age (15-64) for every person over 65. Today there are just 4.5. The working age population is being depleted by the retirement of the baby-boomer generation, and the birth rate and immigration not making up for it.

Smart businesses are already looking at the human resources policies needed to increase their access to available talent. This includes the flexibility and support needed to attract and retain groups of people who have, until now, participated less in the labour force, such as older people, people with disabilities and mothers with young children. Businesses that are slow to respond may find themselves losing good people to their faster-moving counterparts and/or being forced to pay above market rates to make up for shortfalls in key knowledge, experience and skills.

For a start, it makes sense to encourage staff to work beyond current retirement age. People are living and working longer. Several decades ago, the average retirement age was 54 for women and 57 for men. For those who retired in the last five years, it was 60 and 62 respectively.

Many Australians are keen to work through their 60s and into their 70s. But they want to work on their own terms, often with fresh challenges such as mentoring or project leadership, or flexible employment options such as contract or part-time work.

In 1975, less than half of Australian women aged 15-64 worked. Today it’s two-thirds. But female work participation rates still lag some way behind comparable economies such as Canada and New Zealand.

Again, flexibility will be crucial in encouraging more women to stay, or come back when they have children. Technology gives staff greater choice over where and how they work. But it’s also important to make flexibility a real part of women/all staff’s working lives rather than just a passive policy. This includes asking employees what would help them fit their caring responsibilities around their working lives and providing the means to make it possible.

More than two-million Australians aged 16-64 have some form of disability, but less than 40% of them are in employment – one of the lowest participation rates in the developed world. Many employers have made great strides in adapting their workplaces for people with disabilities, and others need to follow their lead. 

The benefits of broadening the talent pool go beyond recruiting new employees. A diverse workforce brings in new ideas and experiences. In a diverse society like Australia’s, customers prefer to deal with diverse companies, and employees feel more comfortable working for them.

Workforce inclusion (and diversification) can mean there’s a need to tackle unconscious biases. For example, protection against age discrimination is enshrined in law and many corporate policy guidelines, but unconscious biases still persist. In this case, ways of tackling them include ensuring that interview panels have a reasonable range of ages. 

For further articles and advice on employer branding, strategic talent management, employment trends and employee engagement and retention, visit Randstad's knowledge centre workforce360 today.