Dealing with Singapore’s ageing workforce

Singapore is facing a future with an increasingly older workforce. As an HRD, do you have what it takes to enable your firm to meet this challenge?

According to government statistics, the median age among Singapore citizens will increase to 47 in 2030. This signifies a greater need for businesses to adapt to an ageing workforce in order to utilise this demographic in an advantageous way.
 
To capitalise on the benefits of older workers, it is necessary for organisations to evolve their talent strategies and workforce planning, says Jaya Dass, director of life sciences, HR & business support at Randstad Singapore.
 
In a recent interview with HRD Singapore, Dass said that firms regardless of the industry can employ older workers in a productive, positive manner through a number of different ways.
 
“[Businesses] have been able to offer the older workforce flexible work hours, opportunities to re-train or re-skill their capabilities, and also rehire them into roles where they can share their expertise and experience to the younger peers and colleagues,” she explained.
 
This makes it easier for industries such as retail, F&B, hospitality and customer service to encourage older workers due to their flexible working arrangements and more feasible skills training, Dass said.
 
Across all industries though, it is still advantageous for firms to hire older workers, she explained.
 
“Contrary to common stereotypes, older workers add a great deal of value to a company due to their extensive work experience and indispensable life skills. They can be engaged to mentor new employees, fill part-time or seasonal positions, or provide specialist expertise.”
 
“They also offer a great history and knowledge when they are re-hired into organisations where they have a great track record of performance and contribution.”
 
There are some challenges that older workers can present, Dass admitted. These include:
  • Keeping a workforce consisting of mature workers and Millennials motivated and engaged simultaneously
  • Managing differences in communication and work expectations between older and younger employees
  • Ensuring older workers have up-to-date technological skills so they perform their roles as expected and enhance productivity
  • Designing policies, including flexible work arrangements, that cater to all ages within a multi-generational workforce
  • Creating a culture and mind set which is attuned to mature workers to turn them into an asset
Dass said these challenges could be easily overcome with the right policies. What is important is that mature workers are viewed as people who can still contribute to a company.
 
“In contrast to common misconceptions about the ageing workforce, mature-age workers are generally open to learning new things and embracing new challenges. Keeping their skills up-to-date through internal and external training programs will increase their productivity and potentially reduce the need to hire additional staff,” she said. “These up-skilling courses can be used to meet the demands of their current role or retrain them for a new position.”
 
Another strategy is to introduce mentoring systems where younger workers are paired with older counterparts to learn from their wider experience and insights, she advised. Learning would be shared as well with older workers asking for advice about areas such as technology and social media from younger employees.
 
Flexible working arrangements are also essential for attracting and retaining older workers. By allowing staff to work part-time, from home, on a project basis or even through job sharing, mature-age employees can strike that critical balance between outside obligations and contributing to the company.
 
This is in line with government efforts to encourage change with businesses for different demographics. “The challenge to employers is to re-design the workplace into one that is suitable for all ages. The re-design would be needed in various aspects – such as job roles, work hours, model of remuneration, work environment, and work culture,” Minister for Health, Gan Kim Yong, said in March earlier this year.
 
“The ability of employers to capitalise on the creative energies and experience of a workforce of different ages will be the key to unlocking productivity and economic potential of a fast maturing nation.”
 
Related stories:
 
Tripartite support for HRDs in an ageing workforce
 
Senior Minister of State calls for progressive workplaces
 
Why your company needs mature workers

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