Shifting mature age mindsets

by 18 Mar 2008

WORKERS AGED 55 and over, particularly women, appear to be the answer to the ongoing skills and labour shortage – not generation Y – and Australian employers must consequently shift their focus from young to old to maintain productivity.

Recent research findings revealed that by the year 2012 the amount of workers in the labour force aged over 55 will increase by 14 per cent while the amount of workers aged 25–54 will increase by only 5 per cent.

Furthermore, the amount of women aged over 45 will increase by 12 per cent while the number of men in the same age group will increase by only 6 per cent.

The research, which was conducted by economic consultancy Econtech and commissioned by Mercer, modelled the profile of Australia’s workforce in 2012 in order to help employers identify where the future workforce will grow, and potentially shrink, the most.

The research debunks the notion that employers should only be focussing on how to attract and retain generation Y and enforces the reality that workers aged over 55 will be the productivity drivers for Australian businesses in the immediate future.

The demographic shifts create an opportunity for HR professionals to influence strategic business planning, according to Ken Gilbert, business leader of human capital advisory services for Mercer, as business growth will rely more heavily on having the right strategies in place to ensure the talent required by the business is available.

“In times of greater talent supply, CEOs and senior executives were happy to vest this responsibility in HR, but in the current environment attraction and retention is everyone’s business. HR has the opportunity to demonstrate how they can truly add value to the business,” he said.

Many of the changes that need to occur to ensure a viable workforce in 2012 will not simply be policy changes, Gilbert said, and they will require a shift in many of the traditional assumptions of what the most productive workforce looks like and what the typical job looks like.

“This is as much a shift in culture, as it is in policy,” he said. “Employers and employees alike are seeking a deeper kind of relationship where employees are genuinely engaged in the work and the mission of their organisation.”

Employers that offer flexible workplaces will be the most attractive to all generations, and increasing flexibility makes the question of job design critical for employers developing workforce strategy for four years out and beyond.

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