Older healthcare workers satisfaction: study of Australian healthcare workers shows job security and autonomy are highly valued in older workers

Human Resource Management International Digest

ISSN: 0967-0734

Article publication date: 23 December 2022

Issue publication date: 11 January 2023

31

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to review the latest management developments across the globe and pinpoint practical implications from cutting-edge research and case studies.

Design/methodology/approach

This briefing is prepared by an independent writer who adds their own impartial comments and places the articles in context.

Findings

The authors used a national dataset, then subsampled healthcare workers. They found that older workers’ job satisfaction is negatively influenced by poor perceptions of job security and autonomy. They argued that managing their job security and offering them work autonomy would motivate them to stay longer in roles.

Originality/value

The briefing saves busy executives, strategists and researchers hours of reading time by selecting only the very best, most pertinent information and presenting it in a condensed and easy-to-digest format.

Keywords

Citation

(2023), "Older healthcare workers satisfaction: study of Australian healthcare workers shows job security and autonomy are highly valued in older workers", Human Resource Management International Digest, Vol. 31 No. 1, pp. 17-18. https://doi.org/10.1108/HRMID-09-2022-0246

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited


Story

Researchers studying older workers in healthcare settings in Australia found their job satisfaction was negatively impacted when they had poor perceptions of autonomy and job security. The authors argued that if management focused on improving these two elements, they could persuade more older workers to keep working.

The researchers, based at universities in Australia and the UAE, said their results had practical implications for companies. The findings show that workers generally become less satisfied in their roles as they get older. This result implies that a “one-size-fits-all” management policy is not suitable for older workers, who specifically cherish job security more than younger workers.

The authors argue this difference may be down to older workers’ belief that they would have more limited opportunities elsewhere if they lost their jobs. At the same time, they might want to minimize financial risks as they get closer to retirement. Older workers also want more “say” – another word for autonomy – in how they go about their jobs. Again, the authors found the downward trend in job satisfaction as workers age was made worse by lack of “say”.

Policies that might help to mitigate these issues for older workers could include greater flexibility of working patterns, more personal authority to take decisions, and assurances of job security. However, the authors pointed out that only providing these benefits to older workers could alienate younger ones. A better strategy for policy makers would be to provide the same benefits to all healthcare workers in order to cultivate a satisfied workforce.

The authors wanted to focus on healthcare because ageing demographics present a worldwide challenge for these systems. In Australia, and elsewhere, it can be helpful to retain older workers as healthcare workers for as long as possible in order to expand provision. In addition, older workers offer experience and skills that can be useful in mentoring younger members of staff.

The authors tested two hypotheses. The first one was: “Age will moderate perceived job security in a positive (divergent) fashion such that for older workers, higher job security will be a stronger positive predictor of overall job satisfaction than will be the case for younger workers.” The authors argue that for older workers the meaning of work changes as they become more settled financially. In addition, there is an element of self-selection as more satisfied workers have already stayed longer. There is also a greater willingness to share skills with younger and emerging workers who are no longer seen as competitors.

Their second hypothesis was: “Age will moderate perceived ‘say’ in how a job is done in a positive (divergent) fashion such that for older workers, higher ‘say’ will be a stronger positive predictor of overall job satisfaction than will be the case for younger workers.” Enhanced autonomy is generally associated with greater job motivation in several studies. Studies have shown that older workers value autonomy even more than younger ones. They especially appreciate flexibility and accommodations where jobs as physically demanding for them. The value of physical accommodations could be even more highly valued in healthcare settings, where they might be harder to achieve.

Data were taken from a healthcare and social assistance sector subsample of the Australian Workplace Relations Survey (AWRS) from 2014. It surveyed a representative sample of both employees and employers in relation to workplace and employment issues. The authors used a combination of computer-assisted telephone interviews and surveys, both online and paper-based. In the final analysis, 1,509 enterprises completed all employer components of the questionnaire, and 5,038 employees within these enterprises also completed the employee version.

But the authors wanted to focus on healthcare so they subsampled: (1) health professionals, (2) legal, social and welfare professionals, (3) health and welfare support workers and (4) carers and aides. After this screening, they identified 288 respondents with an average age of 42. The minimum age was 19 and the oldest was 73. Only 12.2% were male as healthcare is heavily female-dominated in Australia. On average the respondents worked 31.72 hours a week.

The AWRS surveyors asked several questions about job satisfaction and the responses were included in the analysis. Respondents were asked the overall question “How satisfied are you with the following aspects of your job?” On a seven-point scale they answered items relating to (1) the flexibility to balance work and non-work commitments, (2) the freedom to decide how to do your own work, (3) your say about what happens in your job, (4) your total pay, (5) your job security, (6) the work itself and (7) the hours you work. Respondents were then asked the general question: “Thinking of the aspects of job satisfaction you have just rated, overall, how satisfied are you with your job?”

The results confirmed the hypotheses. The authors said the finding was “somewhat novel” and merited more research. They said many people assumed job security became less important as retirement approached. But the study revealed the opposite. This could reflect personal circumstances, or it could reveal a desire for control over how a working life ends. More analysis is required, they said. Meanwhile, they felt their second finding about wanting more “say” as employees age could also be connected to the wider notion of a growing need for job security.

This review was based on the study “Older healthcare workers’ satisfaction: managing the interaction of age, job security expectations and autonomy”, written by Bridget Rice, Zayed University-Abu Dhabi Campus, UAE, Nigel Martin, Australian National University, Canberra, Peter Fieger Federation University Australia, and Taiba Hussain Zayed University-Abu Dhabi Campus, UAE.

Reference

Rice, B., Martin, N., Fieger, P. and Hussain, T. (2022), “Older healthcare workers’ satisfaction: managing the interaction of age, job security expectations and autonomy”, Employee Relations: The International Journal, Vol. 44 No. 2, pp. 319-334, doi: 10.1108/ER-07-2020-0346.

Related articles