'Early' career chats key to managing older workers

Approaching staff when they’re nearing retirement is too late, says manpower minister

'Early' career chats key to managing older workers

The key to managing an ageing workforce is to have career conversations as early as when employees are in their 40s, said Singapore’s manpower minister Josephine Teo.

This was one of the things that were brought up in discussions with industry leaders — and is especially relevant with the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) recently revised retirement policy.

“In the discussions…the employers said, ‘if my older workers are going to stay with us longer, we cannot wait until they are 62 to start this conversation about reskilling, or redeployment’,” Teo said during a local radio interview.

“That conversation has to start a lot earlier — not even at age 60, not even at age 55. Probably even in their 40s, we should be thinking as to how they can be meaningfully deployed 10, 15 years down the road.

“Because the skills development doesn’t happen overnight, and you also have to motivate the workers.”

Employers should be ready to make such adjustments and align with Singapore’s new strategy to create inclusive and progressive workplaces for silver workers. The shift in practices will help workers achieve “productive longevity”.

READ MORE: Singapore’s ‘progressive’ strategy for ageing workforce

How to manage rising healthcare costs
Besides working on boosting productivity and relevancy, Teo said employers should also consult unions about adjusting healthcare policies after Singapore’s mandatory insurance program, MediShield Life, kicks in.

“Companies are concerned about healthcare costs,” she said during the CNA938 session. “They have, in the past, put in place group hospitalisation policies. These were very good benefits for the workers.

“But the policies were put in place before MediShield Life… so there’s some duplication here. It’s actually quite useful for the employers to engage their unions to see whether some adjustment can be made.”

Another area employers should work adjust is the physical demands of job roles. This could be solved with “some degree of mechanisation” and “reorganisation of the workflow”.

The change could also meet some older workers’ desire to contribute, but at a reduced intensity, such as shorter working hours or a lighter load.

“If we were somehow able to organise work to allow job sharing [for two workers] both are happy and you kept both in the workforce,” she said.

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