Hardware store Bunnings Warehouse may be the hub of all things tools, timber, “lowest prices” and sausages in bread but it also has a long-standing reputation for giving older people the opportunity to work.
Almost 30% of Bunnings’ workforce is aged over 50 and about 14% are over 60 – statistics seen at Bunnings stores all over the globe. The Wesfarmers-owned retailer has employed large numbers of older ex-tradespeople for many years who may not have as many physical capabilities but can still offer expert advice to customers.
According to research by the Reserve Bank of Australia, more people aged 55 and over are working, a trend that has been taking place since the mid-2000s across advanced economies – a result of inflation, an ageing population and increasing Age Pension age limits.
Recently, New Zealand’s Ministry of Social Development launched an initiative inspired by businesses like Bunnings to connect older workers with employers called Pick Your Path. Pick Your Path is an opportunity for semi-retired and retired workers to find short-term work.
Damian Zahra, Chief People Officer at Bunnings NZ said the company has known older team members play an important part in creating a great place to work since its founding.
There are many benefits of a multigenerational team, but the mix of perspectives and experiences helps with innovation and decision-making within the company, especially when helping customers solve problems.
“An important part of our strategy for a long time has been to reflect the communities we operate in – that’s in our DNA. Part of that is embracing the wisdom that older team members bring,” he told Human Resources Director (HRD) Magazine.
It’s also not always older employees teaching younger ones new things.
“Reverse mentoring is actually very important, too,” said Mr Zahra, with many younger team members able to help older people with modern aspects such as technology.
Former businessman Larry Starr, who got a job at a Bunnings located in Sydney in his 50s, confirmed that older staff enjoy offering their years of experience to shoppers and colleagues.
“When someone comes up to you and says, ‘Look, I’ve got no idea on what I’m doing. Can you help me?’, by all means. You’ll find the older worker will bend over backwards to make certain that that person’s happy,” he told Business Council of Australia.
“To a lot of the older workers, when you come to a difficult situation, they can often find a resolution because it’s second nature. It’s built into them. They’re conditioned. That’s one of the major benefits the older worker brings to Bunnings.”
Mr Starr chose to leave the world of business having found he was being viewed by employers as “too old, too experienced and too expensive.”
Many years working in his former field and experience in the petroleum and chemicals industry made Mr Starr the perfect candidate for a job at Bunnings where he now spends his days on the floor in the building area inspecting pallets, putting away stock in the timber yard, dealing with customer inquiries and the odd stint as a dock supervisor at the loading dock.
Do you know a mature worker thriving in employment? We’d love to hear about it in the comment below!