IN SINGAPORE, 27 per cent of the workforce is now aged 50 years and above, with the median age at 41 years. This proportion of older employees in the workforce will continue to rise. With changing workforce demographics, organisations will benefit by being proactive in engaging their older employees.
The thYnk Consulting Group recently completed a study on “Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs) for Older Employees”. FWAs refer to work arrangements such as telecommuting, flexi-time, part-time, compressed work week and job sharing.
From its study of 22 organisations across industry types, it found that organisations were able to leverage on FWAs to attract, retain or re-employ valued older employees and benefit from their experience and skill sets.
Human resource professionals can use this four-step Work-Life Methodology as a guide:
Step one: What is our business case?
Understand how your organisation can benefit from implementing FWAs for older employees. Management support of older employees and flexibility is important for the successful implementation of any new initiative.
Determine the business case for valuing older employees and providing FWAs for them.
Investigate your current policy and procedures with respect to older employees and FWAs.
Decide on the policy that the organisation will take with regard to both older employees and FWAs (“New Policy”).
Involve as many managers as possible in the decision-making process.
Management must embrace and be committed the New Policy.
Step two: What are our staff needs?
Review the make-up of your organisation and projected needs for the foreseeable future. Ascertain older employees’ needs and understand the motivation behind requests for FWAs.
Analyse the demographics of your current workforce.
Decide on the projected manpower needs of your organisation for the long and short term and determine how the New Policy can help meet those needs.
Gather employees’ views on the New Policy.
Step three: How can we achieve win-win?
When designing policies and programmes, you need to meet older employee needs without compromising productivity. Communication is the key to awareness and gaining acceptance.
Design FWAs, programmes and related policies and practices for older employees.
Establish standardised criteria and processes to manage requests and approvals for the FWAs to ensure transparency and objectivity.
Review and adjust performance targets and rewards accordingly.
Train and coach supervisors to lead and manage older employees effectively. Identify key success factors.
Promote the New Policy across the organisation.
Step four: How do we know it worked?
Determine if the implementation of FWAs for older employees has achieved win-win for your organisation and these employees.
Set specific objectives for the initiative and a review timeline.
Specify and track key success factors and key performance indicators.
Review and refine where necessary.
When implementing FWAs, challenges are inevitable. The thYnk study revealed that these challenges were similar regardless of organisation size and industry type, including the need to:
manage the issue of fairness;
balance between organisational and staff needs;
manage the line manager’s mindset towards FWAs; and
ensure that FWAs would not be abused.
To overcome these challenges, the organisations interviewed ensured regular and clear communication to older employees on FWAs, focusing on the need to achieve win-win outcomes for both the organisation and the individual.
Clear and measurable performance targets were set and supervisors trained to manage staff on FWAs, which are one of the many ways organisations can extend the working life of an older employee and reap the benefits of being proactive and strategic in harnessing the best of Singapore’s growing older workforce.