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March 2, 2012

A happy, productive workforce. It's a mixed bag.

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:24 AM


Twenty countries around the world show zero or negative population growth.  Birth rates are on the decline. By 2025, the U.S. alone will be short of around 29 million workers, as 77 million baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) retire, but only 48 million individuals belonging to Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980) enter it.

Interestingly, studies indicate that only 20 to 40 percent of 55- to 65-year-olds say that they are fully retired, implying that the majority is still open to working. Why not rehire them? Companies must recognize that their older employees will stay on only if their expectations (shorter/ flexible working hours, respect of colleagues or sense of fulfillment) are met.  The incentive? Save on the rising cost of training a skilled workforce to replace retired workers. Organizations can also bridge the workforce gap by recruiting "millennials" - those born in the two decades between 1980 and 2000.

A comparison of the workplace expectations of baby boomers and millennials reveals some interesting findings. While mature workers seek an income (or nest egg) to live on and want to make productive use of their time, for the young workforce, a job is all about career and skill development, and exposure to cutting edge technology. But they also have several things in common, such as a desire to contribute to society through work; a preference for flexible work arrangements and an appreciation of the social connections formed at the workplace. Generation X, on the other hand, is more concerned about the corporate ladder and compensation.

How to encourage older workers?  Convince them that they can still contribute.  It's up to the management. HR managers must weigh the higher salaries of mature workers against their higher productivity, the cost of recruiting and training fresh hires, and of course, the loss of connectivity and tacit knowledge occasioned by their exit. Managing the aging workforce is only part of the story. To ensure access to world-class talent and turn their human resources into a competitive advantage, organizations need to configure their workplaces to meet the future needs of their people.

Some key trends indicate what these might be:
  • Increasing female workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women employees are a two-thirds majority in 10 industries out of 15 that are tipped to grow the fastest over the next few years.
  • Dynamic working schemes. Working schemes will not only become remote and flexible, but also more innovative. Solutions such as eLancing will be used more frequently to quickly bring a trained workforce on board.
  • Flexible training. This needs to become more flexible, as younger workers embrace on demand, anywhere, anytime learning.
  • Smarter communication. Increasing use of personal devices like smartphones (even at work) will enable millennials to maintain work-life balance.
  • New technologies. These will help the ageing workforce remain productive longer.
  • Virtual workplace. Telecommuting is a win-win for the worker who needs flextime and the employer, which can save on overhead costs.
Organizations that embrace these to-dos improve their supply of talent...make existing workers more productive, reduce attrition and delay the retirement of older employees.

Read White Paper Keeping the Workforce

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