Mature workers toolkit

Mature workers toolkit

As the population ages and more people work later in life, New Zealand’s workforce will include more people aged 50-plus.

It makes good business sense to employ people of a variety of ages — to reflect your customer base, to learn from each other, and to retain valued skills and knowledge your business needs.

This toolkit will help you hire, develop and retain mature workers. Its tools and resources include:

  • worksheet to write great job ads
  • build-your-own policy for on-the-job learning
  • tips on leading and working with mature staff
  • case studies.
Skills in your business

Skills in your business

To survive and thrive, your business needs the right skills and knowledge at the right time.

Take this self-assessment to spot any skills gaps and opportunities.

Build a learning and skills policy

Build a learning and skills policy

Workers of all ages benefit from continuing to learn. This can be to:

  • keep their skills and knowledge up to date
  • stretch into a new area.

It’s also good for your business.

Tailor a policy to suit your people and your goals — plus get tips along the way. 

Case study

Case study

Changing training to suit employees

Early childhood manager Ika wants to try a new teaching approach at his centre. He books a trainer to run two half-day workshops. He splits the cost with a neighbouring childcare centre, also keen on the philosophy.

A week after the first workshop, Ika hasn’t observed any teachers using the approach. Deflated, he asks staff why. The teachers admit they found the information a lot to take in at once. They had little chance to ask questions. They also struggled to see how they might use the principles with the tamariki at their centre.

Ika cancels the second workshop. Instead, the trainer visits the centres to show teachers the technique one on one.

The trainer helps staff apply the approach to real situations. She leaves posters and checklists as visual prompts. Reading material is also available for those who need more background. In a follow-up session, she asks teachers what they are finding difficult and helps them retry.

A month on, Ika is happy to see his employees have mastered the teaching technique. When a student teacher starts work, they eagerly pass on what they have learned.

Case study

Case study

Myth of 'over-qualified'

Sifting through applications for an engineering technician, Hoani is surprised to find Don’s CV. In his last job — engineering manager — Don led a team of 10. Hoani wonders why he’s interested in this mid-level role, maintaining and repairing machinery.

Don clearly has the technical knowledge. But Hoani worries Don may become bored in a less responsible role. He also wonders if Don’s skills are rusty after being in management.

Hoani keeps an open mind and invites Don to interview.

At interview, Hoani asks Don why he wants the job. He learns a mid-level position suits Don fine. After years in management, Don wants to shift gears. He still has the passion for engineering he had as an apprentice, and misses being on the tools. The hours and level of responsibility would give Don back his weekends. He has three grandchildren he wants to spend more time with. An old motorbike to get on the road. He’s also been asked to be a youth mentor by a local community group. With retirement savings, Don’s prepared for a lower wage.

Don has a good attitude and a lot to give. Hoani checks his references. Past teammates say Don’s easy to work with — a humble guy with the hands-on knowledge of someone on the floor. Hoani offers Don the role.

Two years on, Hoani is happy he didn’t write off Don as being too experienced. Don keeps their machinery humming and is generous with his knowledge — coaching younger team members and being open to learning from them.

Coaching and mentoring

Case study

Case study

Not ready to retire

When business dramatically slows at Harriet’s events company, she must make difficult decisions about her eight employees. Harriet cannot afford to keep everyone on the payroll.

Harriet begins a restructuring process and proposes cutting two full-time roles. During consultation, long-time employee Beth suggests she retires, as she’s now in her early 60s. This would leave Harriet without her trusted bookings manager. It’s a role Harriet needs to retain, and Beth is someone she and her staff are reluctant to lose.

Harriet invites Beth to a conversation to explore other options. Does she really want to stop work? Harriet listens as Beth talks about loving her job but feeling she should make way for her younger co-workers. Harriet asks if she’s thought about other options. Beth wonders about reducing her hours. If this happens, she wants to help train someone to fill in when she’s not at work.

When talking with other staff, Harriet learns most of her people want to change their hours. Some are also interested in taking on new responsibilities.

Harriet comes up with a new plan. She can keep all eight employees on reduced hours. Harriet also asks Beth to coach a co-worker keen to move into bookings.

Quiz: How flexible is your workplace really? 

Case study

Case study

Job shadow pays off

Nico’s top bricklayer Reece is starting to feel the effects of 40 years in the trade — his back aches constantly. Reece worries about doing permanent damage. Nico doesn’t want to lose such a valued employee. Reece has been the heart and soul of his building firm. The knowledge he holds is invaluable.

Dana, a competent administrator and bookkeeper in her 20s, works in the office. She’s been with the business for two years and wants to take on more responsibility. Nico senses Dana is bored. He worries she may also leave.

Like most business owners, Nico is pulled in many directions. He can’t afford to lose staff. Besides, he needs another person who knows how to cost jobs to ease his load.

After talking to a trades manager friend, Nico decides combining Dana and Reece’s skills could solve his employee/workload issue. Reece has worked on hundreds of building projects. He knows the supplies needed to complete a job, without waste. Reece isn’t great with spreadsheets, but Dana is.

Nico talks to Reece and Dana. He asks if they’re interested in taking on costing work. Together, they figure out a job shadowing plan.

Dana starts spending a couple of days a week on site with Reece. Reece shares stories about past projects, and Dana observes how things are done on the job. Another two days a week, Reece comes into the office with Dana to learn computer skills.

In time, Nico feels confident delegating costing work to Dana and Reece. Reece’s back is grateful for less time on the tools. Dana feels more motivated. Plus Reece’s ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ approach helps her put some of the customer service stuff she finds stressful into perspective. 

Managing age-diverse workers