Ageing workersAustralia’s ageing workforce is having a profound effect on all industries, including the Australian security industry. Although it is the responsibility of owners and managers of security companies to develop strategies, it is the also the role of human resources (HR) to assist and guide, strategically and tactically, security companies in developing plans and responses to this issue.

According to the 2016 census, nearly one in every six people in Australia (16 percent) were workeaged 65 and over. By the end of the next decade, it is expected that one in three Australians will be aged over 55.

To a point, the Federal Government is playing its part. The Government recently announced the provision of $17.4 million to establish the Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers program, and $189.7 million to support mature age workers adapting to the transitioning economy. The Government is also easing the burden of the age pension by raising the age it can be accessed from 65½ to 67 by 2023 and to 70 by 2035. However, provided you are permanently retired, you are able to access your superannuation at age 60.

So, what does the ageing population mean for employers in the Australian security industry?

For the first time in our history there could be five generations working together. This large age span on one site has the potential of creating all sorts of management and intergenerational conflict.

How does a supervisor manage a work site where not all guards are physically equal, yet the expectations and pay are? Where one guard has superior speed, agility and strength and is working with a guard(s) who has age-related decline in speed, physical strength and cognitive ability. Further, mature-aged workers tend to want flexible working arrangements so they, for example, can care for ageing parents or to transition to retirement.

A security guard cannot simply be sacked or dismissed because they get older and cannot hold their own at the door of the licensed premises or run as fast as the younger guard.

Chris Anderson, CEO and founder of Silvertrac Software, states older guards tend to be more suspicious of change, do not trust so readily and are more fearful of job security due to a lack of understanding of technology.

These issues are just a snapshot of what is emerging as a larger issue for the Australian security industry. To assist the HR manager to support their managers and team leaders, the following strategies are proposed:

  1. Undertake an age audit and succession plan – monitor the age of staff, especially in areas that have traditionally been the domain of younger workers, such as crowd control, door and licensed premises. Plan for future resourcing needs and the transfer of skills and knowledge.
  2. Develop mentoring/coaching programs to promote skill transfer between younger and older guards and employees. This could also include training for those working beside other generations.
  3. Create opportunities and conditions for older guards. This could mean redesigning position descriptions, job sharing, working from home and phased retirement plans, such as part-time work arrangements.
  4. Construct and deliver retirement awareness sessions, which could include financial counselling.
  5. Re-skill and purchase tools that are more suited to older workers.
  6. Introduce change slowly, take guards off-site to train them and, where necessary, force older guards to adapt and change.
  7. ASIS International also suggests implementing benchmarks for older guards that they understand and are realistic.
Greg Byrne
Greg Byrne is CEO and director of Multisec Consultancy Pty Ltd, a multi-faceted consultancy advising CEOs and boards of security organisations in Australia on best approaches to manage business risk, particularly operations, disaster recovery, business continuity and human resources.