Managing Age in Organisational Contexts

Project Summary

This Australian Research Council funded project focuses on the management of age in organisations. This is becoming an increasingly important issue as the population and workforce ages. Recent government policy initiatives call for people to extend their working lives beyond traditional retirement age, yet older workers continue to face barriers to effective labour force participation. How organisations deal with age-related issues in the workplace is not yet well understood.

This study aims to develop a framework of effective strategies for employers to use in managing age by investigating how the meaning of age is constructed in relation to managers, taking into account differences in gender and in organisational context.

Research and policy typically take a chronological view of age with ageing viewed in terms of decline and negativity. This study challenges these assumptions of age as decline, and seeks to explore better ways of managing age within organisations.

The research involves two strands. The first strand, headed up by Associate Professor Cutcher, and Professor Hardy involves in-depth case study research with two large multinational firms, Siemens and IAG. In 2012, more than thirty interviews have been undertaken within two divisions of Siemens. These interviews with male and female employees of different ages have sought to explore:

  • The meanings of ageing that underpin policy and organisational initiatives;
  • The meanings of age constructed in relation to managers;
  • The role of gender in the social construction of age;
  • The meanings of age constructed in different organisational contexts; and
  • Strategies used to manage age-related issues in specific organisations and what are their effects.

More interviews with Siemens will follow in 2013, and interviews and focus groups with IAG will commence in 2013.

The second strand of research is being undertaken by Dr Susan Ainsworth and Professor Robyn Thomas. It involves a discourse analysis of a range of documentation relating to the ageing of the workforce, including: government reports, policy documents, legislations, agency reports and organisational documentation.

In 2013, the research team will continue the fieldwork and document analysis, and share their findings at conferences. They aim to have two publications under review by the end of 2013. In November 2013, an ICRODSC workshop on 'Managing Age' will be held at Cardiff Business School.

Researchers

The Chief Investigators on this project are Dr Leanne Cutcher (Sydney) and Professor Cynthia Hardy and Dr Susan Ainsworth (University of Melbourne). Professor Robyn Thomas (Cardiff Business School) is a Principal Investigator on the project.