Organisational culture, also sometimes referred to as corporate culture or company culture, involves attitudinal, behavioural and inter-personal practices within an organisation. It also refers to the assumptions and mind-sets that influence decision making processes within an organisation.
Some traditional assumptions and misperceptions about age in the workplace can alienate mature workers and significantly reduce their engagement and levels of workforce participation.
Negative stereotyping can lead to age discrimination which manifests in both overt and subtle ways and from various sources e.g. colleagues and recruitment agencies. For a more comprehensive discussion on types of discrimination, go to the section Abolishing Age Discrimination and Compliance with the Law.
Organisations with a poor workplace culture towards mature workers may experience an exodus of skilled and experienced staff who feel so undervalued and alienated that they exit the workforce prematurely.
Overall, negative stereotypes about age also detract from the 'ethics' of an organisation and must be challenged.
A good organisational culture can reduce business costs in the following ways:
- Higher rates of staff satisfaction leading to lower rates of attrition, less recruitment and a reduction in new recruit training costs
- Higher rates of engagement of staff leading to greater productivity
- Staff more likely to feel valued and empowered
Initiatives for creating an age positive workplace culture
Facilitators to creating a positive workplace culture and ensuring the inclusion of all employees can be achieved through:
- Ensuring fair and equal treatment of all employees
- Provision of equal opportunities for all employees
- Utilising an open management style
- Having senior management engaged in creating and promoting an age positive culture
- Ensuring open and honest communication
- Providing regular feedback to all employees
- Ensuring goals are clear and achievable
- Creating employee support networks
- Provision of education and training programs for all employees
- Organising formal and informal workplace activities where everyone is invited and encouraged to attend
- Encouraging the formation of multi-generational work teams to facilitate cross-generational interaction and participation
- Encourage the utilisation of flexible work options as being beneficial for productivity, wellbeing and work-life balance
- Ensure ‘family friendly’ messages are inclusive of mature workers and their care-giving responsibilities (e.g. elder care)
- Access a wider talent pool by insisting that recruitment processes are age-inclusive and based on merit
- Ensure a good match between the employee and required job skills in order to facilitate the breakdown of negative stereotypes. This will increase the likelihood that mature staff have the opportunity to demonstrate their skills, knowledge and expertise
- Formal knowledge transfer and mentoring programs can contribute to increased productivity, job satisfaction and retention, as well as multi-generation interaction
- Publicly promote positive stories of older workers regarding the varied and important ways they contribute in the workplace and wider society
- Reward new behaviours with visible public praise. Such rewards are symbolic of organisational values, reinforces positive change and engages staff
Barriers to implementing an age positive workplace culture
There are barriers to overcome when implementing age positive initiatives. Some of these may include:
- Negative attitudes and beliefs are often the most difficult for organisations to change
- Utilisation of flexible work arrangements can create negative stereotypes (e.g., part-timers are less committed or getting ready for retirement)
- Negative stereotypes about mature employees can influence the recruitment and retention of older workers and often result in diminished productivity, adaptability, health, uptake of technology and attitudes to retirement
- Age discrimination during the recruitment process is widespread (for more information on how to combat these barriers, go to the Recruitment, Retention and/or the Abolishing age discrimination in the workplace and compliance with the law sections)
For a full list of resources outlining culture change and promoting an age positive workplace culture, click here.