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Solutions for businesses

An aging workforce – How to rise to the challenge?

11 Jun 2014

By Christèle Gran-Villeneuve

Our population is getting older. No one can ignore this reality, or its impact on the workforce:

  • In Quebec back in 1971, there were 7.8 potential workers for each person 65 or older. In 2030, it will be 2.1 potential workers*.
  • In 2030, Quebec will have more than 2.2 million people 65 and older; that is 4 times as much as the 1980 numbers*.
  • According to the last estimates from the Régie des rentes du Québec, 1.1 million Quebecers will retire from the workforce until 2021. New workers will not compensate for these retirements.

The workforce is going through major changes, and this has a direct impact on the availability of resources. In order to face the new challenge that is an increasing scarcity of workers within the workforce, companies will have to think about retention and development strategies regarding its aging workers, to make sure that they can continue offering their best contribution to the business plan.  

Obtaining a better return on investment

Before trying to find new ways of attracting and recruiting workers, why not first try to increase the loyalty of your existing team members, and thus obtain a better return on the investment you already made in your current employees?

1. Know the aging worker profile and understand his/her needs The end-of-career worker usually possesses an expertise (knowledge, skills, etc.) that is very valuable to the organization, as well as a good understanding of its culture and of its inner workings, which usually makes daily operations easier. Often, this worker is more engaged and more loyal. Close to retirement, this type of worker may be looking for a certain professional slowdown, and a way to turn his/her salary into a sideline income. Ask these workers about their needs so you can better meet them; your strategy will only be more effective!

2. Adopt the right strategies Once the mutual needs have been defined, you can explore different strategies: a revamped work organization that fosters the coaching and mentoring of less experienced workers, involvement in the decision-making process or in committees, for instance an ongoing process improvement group that could benefit from the knowledge and know-how they acquired over the years… All these measures could lead to a positive impact on the workers’ mobilization, and everyone will win. Analyze the possibility of setting up an ongoing training program, one that could be adapted to their learning preference (for instance, through action or through observation), and that will ease the acquisition of new skills. Don’t forget to acknowledge initiative and good deeds; perhaps you could establish an award program recognizing service years? An aspect that should not be neglected; a schedule that offers intensive or part-time hours, so they can spend some of their time on other activities, or any other work-life balance measure (telecommuting, flexible schedule, etc.) Additionally, end-of-career workers will certainly appreciate measures like flexible benefits (i.e. medical insurance), flexible retirement plans, or even financial incentives to keep them at work. Employers should also be aware that aging workers sometimes face prejudice within a company (less productive, less flexible, unable to learn new skills or work with new technologies, etc.). Everyone should make efforts to change the mentalities and remove the stigma, including senior workers. One last thing: retention and development have important benefits for aging employees, including a positive effect on their physical and mental health, a sense of usefulness and accomplishment and an improvement of their financial situation.

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By adopting a few such measures, you will become an attractive employer, benefit from available resources, and have an edge compared to your competitors.   Source: Report of the National Commission on the participation of the 55+ workforce, from September 2011. http://www.mess.gouv.qc.ca/publications/pdf/GD_rapport_commission_nationale.pdf

About the author(s)

Associated Subjects

Human ressources