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HR and the Aging Workforce

Increased longevity and declining birth rates have resulted in a ‘greying’ of the population, the impact of which can also be seen among the workforce of various organizations. While dealing with an older workforce, a number of challenges crop up. Less mobility, comparative lack of transferable skills, higher wage expectations, high rate of retirement, employer’s perception of older workers and other issues are factors that have a large impact on HR practices.

How an aging workforce influences the workplace

Before the HR department formulates plans for dealing with an aging workforce, it needs to understand how the older workers will influence the workplace. To begin with, inter-personal relationships need to be evaluated from a different angle. Older workers often have a problem adjusting to the young bloods as they feel that the latter don’t respect their contributions and years of experience.

The aging workforce is unlikely to get motivated by external incentives like money, competition, and opportunities for advancement, unlike their younger colleagues. Rather, older workers look forward to intrinsic incentives like stimulating work and a certain degree of autonomy, all of which play an important role to keep them motivated.

With a predominantly aging workforce in an organization, elder care responsibilities of the company towards these people will also increase in terms of medical benefits etc. After a certain stage, retaining competent employees can also become a problem as many aged workers may not be able to take the strain of working long hours and choose to quit.

Role of the HR

To maintain an amicable work environment, it’s the responsibility of the HR personnel to ensure proper channels of communication between the older workers, younger supervisors and people in the higher rungs of management. Mutual respect should be encouraged between the aged people and their younger supervisors or employees. Frequent communication from the bosses to the older workers can also help the latter understand their roles and responsibilities, and make them cope better with the changing corporate culture.

An aging workforce can act as a great on-the-job training resource for the organization. Unlike formal training that most youngsters posses, these aged people have valuable, experience-driven knowledge as well as technical and specialist know-how, all of which can help them to train the rookies. Their knowledge can also be used by the management in various decision-making processes. This way, the aged workers can be made a part of the organizational processes rather than keeping them alienated.

Despite the advantages that the aging workforce can bring to the table, it also has some limitations. Health problems, age-related impairments, not willing to accept change, occupational safety issues, low levels of commitment because they are soon to retire etc are some factors that bog down the organization. Sometime, an older employee is also seen as someone who is limiting the career opportunities of a younger staff. So, it’s the HR’s responsibility to iron out the issues, offer flexible work practices, arrange targeted education and career planning for the aging workforce, and ensure that these people get adequate medical coverage in lieu of giving their best years for the company’s growth and prosperity.

Comments Listing
Posted: 15/07/2011 15:41:14

IJWTS wow! Why can't I think of tihngs like that?

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