Academic: older staff are valuable, must be retained

Bevan Catley
Bevan Catley
Despite recent progress, there is no room for complacency over retaining older staff in the workforce, Associate Prof Bevan Catley warns.

‘‘The effort has to be sincere and comprehensive’’, Prof Catley, of Massey University’s School of Management, said.

‘‘They’re a valuable part of our workforce’’, he added.

‘‘It’s all very well having the rhetoric.’’

Management was not simply a technical skill, but required an ability to establish rapport with a wide range of people at work, and to ‘‘manage and retain older workers’’, he said.

He gave a public talk at the University of Otago this week on the conditions that might ‘‘enhance the retention and engagement of older workers’’.

Prof Catley, who is member of the Healthy Work Group at Massey, said retaining older staff had become a ‘‘major concern’’ across a number of sectors.

Government was keen to retain older staff and this was also ‘‘good business’’ for individual firms and organisations, he said in an interview.

Some negative myths had been shattered and a more positive picture had emerged from extensive research he had undertaken, involving a survey of more than 1200 older workers.

The survey showed staff aged 55 and older were largely healthy and injury-free, enjoying their work, and well engaged in it.

Only 2% of those surveyed reported daily or near-daily experience of age-based discrimination at work.

However, ‘‘even low levels of ageism can be detrimental’’, and could undermine relationships, he warned.

‘‘A positive perception of organisation support/care will be reciprocated with greater effort, dedication, vigour and commitment’’ by staff to the organisation, he said.

Prof Catley’s talk was supported by the management department at the Otago School of Business, and the university’s Collaboration for Ageing Research Excellence (CARE).

Clear discrimination might not be often apparent, but more should be done to support older staff, he said.

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