When my son introduces me to his friends, he refers to me as an app developer. As a 67-year-old this is generally met with a look of surprise and disbelief – and I can see why. I don’t fit the stereotype of your typical tech entrepreneur, let alone an app developer.
We seem to be bursting at the seams with creative, disruptive start-up businesses and savvy entrepreneurs in Australia at the moment but who says they all have to be 30-something? There is rightly still room for experience over youth, even in the start-up world.
Yet, you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Recently, a landmark report by the Australian Human Rights Commission into age discrimination found that more than half of over 50s looking for work were discriminated against based on their age.
While Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey bangs on about the need for workers to keep at it past pension age to boost our economy and support our aging population, this new study shows limited opportunities for employment.
Promotion and training still continue to hold older workers back and low-skilled/older workers are the most discriminated against.
So as an ex-recruitment executive who’s transitioned my career to create Rision, a new recruitment and HR tech company, I want to show that age isn’t a barrier to achieving your work goals and encourage a grey army of workers in my age bracket to persist with their careers.
Working past pension age is great
Don’t get me wrong, personally I’d love to be playing more golf and it hasn’t been easy starting a business from scratch. Just ask my accountant.
But I strongly believe that working after the age of 55 shouldn’t be looked at as a burden. It should instead be seen as a great opportunity to put all your years of experience to good use, to take risks and try and achieve something that will genuinely improve the lives of others.
Hockey is right about the economics too. As the Age Discrimination Commissioner points out, an increase of just five per cent in paid employment for Aussies over 55 would result in a $48 billion impact on the national economy, every year. Just five per cent!
As a cancer survivor, I’m also a big believer that employment – even as little as five hours a week – is integral for good mental and physical health in older age. Playing Lumosity or Sudoku can help keep your mind active but having a job provides all the real mental and social stimulation you need.
So what are the roadblocks discouraging over 65s to keep working?
The traditional recruitment process is a barrier
Looking for work is a full time job in itself!
A bunch of cover letters and resumes has to be written and then there’s the interview process. For a 55-year-old that’s just been laid off from a manufacturing job, the prospect of scouring job ads, filling out application forms and making follow up calls is more than off-putting.
Especially with the current level of age discrimination, an employer looking at a worker’s profile on a piece of paper is always more likely to choose the younger candidate with the flashier resume.
For someone looking for just 10 to 20 hours a week in a low-skilled role, or in fact any role, the whole job hunting process can seem too difficult and often makes the pension seem like the easier option.
This recruitment process is a nightmare for employers too. The prospect of analysing hundreds of job applications just to add a few more shift workers to the books to fill casual hours is a costly and time consuming process.
Which leads me to the second issue…
Casual, contract and shift workers continue to fall through the gaps of recruiters and employers
Of course, recruitment companies are going to focus most of their attention on top executive positions with the highest salary and biggest commissions.
However, this means that unfortunately its shift workers, freelancers and contractors that don’t get the treatment they deserve from recruiters and employers.
Back when I was managing a recruitment company, to fill a contract role we had to wait until after 5pm for people to get home from work to check their availability.
Now with mobile technology, communication with staff has become instantaneous.
Recruitment can learn from online dating
I believe there’s two key factors that lead to a happy healthy life. A good partner and a good job. We’ve seen internet dating take off in the last 10 years with men and women of all ages able to scan the profiles of potential suitors, find a match and organise a date all from their smartphone or tablet.
So why can’t we have that same simple search mechanism and matching capability for employers to find staff and make it easier for workers of all ages to find more work.
The power of mobile and the cloud means employers and workers can now organise everything directly with their devices, including rosters, availability, timesheets and payroll.
I’ve worked hard to develop a platform that includes all these features and while I didn’t do the actual coding (I brought in the real app developers for that) I’m proud to be a 67 year old entrepreneur with the experience and vision to make it happen.
I’ve also managed to attract some seriously bright people to the company to make my vision a reality.
It’s now the challenge of growing the company and the goal of empowering casual, shift and contract employees to make their work life easier that gets me out of bed in the morning.
Every older worker has their own passions and goals that translate into work. It could be gardening, driving, managing projects, volunteer work, sales, cooking or even hosting tours.
For me it is technology, recruitment and HR. Rather than collecting a pension and playing golf, I spend most of my time in board meetings, investor briefings or technology expos – and I love it.
Robert Day is the founder of Rision, an Australian company with a patented mobile recruitment and HR platform set to list on the ASX next month.