Seven steps to managing mature talent

by 09 Sep 2010

HR must be alert to the dangers of mature workers retiring and taking years of knowledge and experience with them, says Alison Monroe, director at SageCo

SageCo is Australia’s only ageing workforce specialist. Having partnered with over 70 organisations since 2004 on the risks, challenges and opportunities of workforce ageing, we have a wealth of practical tools to get you started. Follow these seven steps to a sustainable workforce:

1 Do the maths: Crunch your numbers and make sure you have a rigorous approach to workforce planning. Understand your data story and know how big your retirement risk is. Put a dollar value on your replacement, recruitment, restructuring and retraining costs. Warning – even with conservative estimates you will end up with a big dollar figure.

2 Assess the risks: Work out what your key risks are. Is it knowledge loss of long tenure employees with specialised, deep smarts? Is it redesigning roles? Do you need to delay the retirement of a targeted group of workers by a few years? Is it the ability to manage your mature workers so that they are positive and productive as they approach retirement? What about wellbeing? Or return to work? Or injury rates?

3 Calculate the ROI: Your business case to implement any ageing workforce initiative must be evidence based and include a calculation for return on investment, otherwise your senior managers will not buy into it. We use a calculation that incorporates the cost to recruit and replace the number of employees leaving over a period of time. You may have your own formula. Whatever it is, use it wisely to show that the money, time and effort you want to invest in managing your mature talent will return at ten fold to the organisation.

4 Find out who: Numbers are not enough. You now need to know who could leave due to retirement and what they do. Do they occupy a mission critical role? How difficult is it to recruit for this role? What are their working intentions and can you influence them? Have this conversation with a targeted group of mature employees and listen to what they say.

5 Shift the mindset: Traditionally the work cycle has generally ended with full time retirement. In Australia at least, many of us have a stereotypical view of retirement which involves caravans, endless rounds of golf and looking after grandchildren. This is not the reality. Give your mature employees permission to think about retirement differently. We hear the catch cry, “I’m happy to work longer, just not the way I’m working now.” Retirement is a unique proposition to every individual. Encourage your mature workers to prepare for the transitions of late career. Help them set goals, deal with their finances, wellbeing, relationships and identity. Break through the assumption of retirement and have constructive conversations about their future journey.

6 Provide a pathway: In many organisations the career path for employees aged over 50 tends to fizzle out. Establish a career pathway which includes redesign, redirection, re-careering, phased retirement, internal consulting and contingent work options. Know what knowledge you need to keep and transfer and build a living, breathing knowledge database that you can tap into at any time. Help employees identify ways to work with you beyond the traditional date of retirement.

7 Build your capability: Your HR people are going to need to build bench depth in workforce planning, job redesign, career conversations and knowledge transfer skills. And they’re already busy. SageCo will provide the resources, online toolkits and expertise to make it happen and build your internal capability at the same time.

The ageing workforce ‘issue’ is not a mere glitch or ‘just a diversity’ initiative; It is core to your workforce sustainability now and for the future. Put wisdom to work and contact us for your next steps.

To read The Great Debate on Talent Management see the next issue of HR Leader magazine - hitting desks 14 September.

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