Employers face new and mounting occupational health and safety risks as more Australians choose to work long into their 60s, according to Talent2 director Peter George.

Speaking at the AIST Superannuation Administration Symposium in Melbourne on Thursday, George said an ageing workforce presented both opportunities and challenges for organisations that needed to be more flexible, accommodating and fun in order to hang on to valuable staff members.

“People used to retire at age 60 and spend a relatively long time in retirement, but they’re now looking at their superannuation balance and realising they won’t have enough to last them, and for the average punter that means working for longer,” he said, citing research from KPMG which showed the average life expectancy in Australia had soared from 63 years in 1930 to 82 years in 2010.

George, pictured right, said an increasing number of people in their early 50s wanted to have a “different relationship with their boss”, meaning they wanted to work part-time or from home or do shift work. George-Peter

At the other end of the age spectrum, George said young people were living at home for longer, changing jobs regularly, travelling frequently and choosing not to commit to long-term relationships, which also had serious implications for employers.

He said organisations that spent time and resources hiring and training university graduates were taking a risk because fewer young people were choosing to stay with any one company for a long period of time. Furthermore, characteristics that defined Generation Y included a sense of entitlement and a disregard for authority.

“Historically, you could hire a graduate and there was the possibility they would stay with you for a long period of time and potentially move up the ranks to become the CEO one day, but now individuals in that age bracket are highly mobile and transient,” George said.

“Basically people are remaining in adolescence from age 13 to 30, whereas in the past people moved out of home at 18 and committed to the workforce, a career, a mortgage and a marriage. Organisations now need to manage both these types of employees.”

However, George said there were things that organisations could do to become an employer of choice and hold on to key staff, such as training and development, and reward and recognition programs. Other motivating factors included a compelling vision and culture, corporate principles and a strong brand.

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