Harnessing The Silver Workforce

Engaging the silver workforce has more to benefit than most companies would think. It’s unfortunate that most companies continue to hold negative stereotypes about older workers when the experience and knowledge they have acquired over the years are priceless.

According to the executive director of BeyondAge, a consultancy that helps businesses engage mature workers, Ms Helen Ko, “Many employers still harbour myths about older workers: that they are inflexible and unwilling to learn, that they do not want to pick up new skills and are slow.”

Obviously that’s not true. As an article by the GMP group highlights, “It pays to engage the silver workforce. This is because older workers not only have invaluable work experiences but they also have good people and problem-solving skills, said HR experts”.

Fact of the matter is that the silver workforce holds knowledge and skills that are essential and vital to a company’s growth and survival in today’s increasingly competitive business climate.

Companies need to be aware that most of these older workers form a large percentage of their manpower, and its crucial to secure, store and harness their knowledge and skills because these baby boomers will soon retire.

Even though the retirement age has increased over the years, companies should not take for granted that most older workers will not retire before the pensionable age. Instead, companies should take active steps to harness and engage the silver workforce.

This can certainly be achieved in a few ways.

But first, in order for companies to benefit from their existing silver workforce, they need to begin researching and acquiring ways to retain their knowledge and skills, and effective means to transfer them to other employees.

This includes motivating the older workers by creating favourable working conditions for them, such as ensuring adequate work-life balance and a robust support system to help them cope with new technologies and processes.

By cultivating a culture of open communication and respect, the company should also emphasise the employment of workers, whether managers or young hires, that value and focus on the strengths of the silver workforce than the biased and inaccurate stereotypes. Companies should educate and enlighten their employees about being patient with, respecting and engaging the silver workforce to prevent ignorance and biases.

Ensuring a supportive and educated corporate cultures as well as having tools and methods set in place, companies can harness and engage the silver workforce in the following few ways:

1. Consulting and Training
With their wealth of knowledge, experience and advanced skill sets, the silver workforce are the best people to conduct in-house training for companies. Especially in small and medium enterprises, where companies find it challenging to engage external parties to help train their new employees.

In fact, the older workers are more than well-equipped and well-versed in the operations, policies and workings of the companies to play to roles of mentors so that they can help coach and train new or young employees.

If companies face challenges with retiring older workers, they can also consider employing them on part time or flexible basis for consulting work. This leads us to the next point.

2. Flexible working conditions
Even though the silver workforce may retire sooner or later, it does not mean they leave the company for good. Some older workers would still want to continue working past their retirement age, albeit with more flexibility.

By providing flexible working conditions, benefit packages and working hours, it allows both the employers and employees to personalise, manage and negotiate agreeable compensation packages.

This is a win-win situation as the silver workforce becomes valued and can personalise and optimise their work commitment level to suit their lifestyle and personal needs and the company continues to benefit from the value these older workers can continue to contribute.

3. Rehires & Retraining
Retired older workers may be looking for re-employment opportunities after taking a much needed break. So rehiring them can benefit companies greatly because of the relevant knowledge they bring back to the business.

However, it’s important to be strategic with rehiring so that both the older workers as well as the company stand to gain. Instead of re-employing them to do menial tasks, companies should employ them to train and coach less experienced employees, and also tap on them for strategic insights and invaluable advice.

4. Utilising Government Schemes
Companies can invest in the re-training of their re-employed older workers by taking advantage of government initiatives such as Singapore Workforce Development Agency’s (WDA) WorkPro. There are comprehensive and subsidised training programmes provided by WDA to help mature workers be work-ready.

As CEO of Hays, Alistair Cox expressed, “Businesses must adjust to accommodate a more mature workforce, but employees too can look up to their older colleagues and benefit from their experience.”

So, the silver workforce has so much more to offer to companies and they will be missing out if they fail to see their value and how they can harness their invaluable experiences, knowledge and skill sets.

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