Impact of an Ageing Workforce on HR

In our article on Working Late – The Impact of an Ageing Workforce we highlighted some research initiatives in this area.

A key question for us is:

“What is the future impact of an ageing workforce on HR?”

For HR departments, the ageing workforce is a very current topic with a focus on developing retirement policy in line with regulations, pay and pension reviews and recruitment policy to avoid complex age discrimination cases. This research on the ageing workforce also raises longer-term questions for future HR Operating Models.  In HR, how do we ensure structures, services and tools are reasonably future proof to deliver organisational goals today and in the future?

An ageing workforce will impact current Talent Strategy, for example attracting applications from older workers and supporting recruiters to change their perception of older workers.  A clear theme from the Working Late interviews was “homeostasis of career” – workers happy to do their role with no prospect of promotion.  It is a challenge for organisations to manage the uncertainty around the end of employees working lives.  What will be the impact on the Talent pool?  Line Managers need support in managing performance and improving productivity of older workers to build diverse inter-generational teams.

Our view is we need to rethink our change management approach when dealing with different generations of workers. Even though the change management principles may remain the same, it is clear that different tactics are required with older workers than when dealing with Generation Y.

Some challenging questions for HR professionals are “How do we ensure we have a good understanding of our own workforce, so we can anticipate changes?”, “How robust is your HR data, are you able to conduct analysis on your workforce, including age and skills profiling?”  For some, this puts an uncomfortable spotlight on current HR Systems.

We encourage the periodic review of HR tools and technology to support a productive workforce, but before we “bet the farm” on our new HR Technology Mobile strategy, we need to assess whether this will be successful for all our categories of workers or is a different approach needed.

There is evidence that there is discrimination against both younger and older workers, for example research by the UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Attitudes to Age in Britain 2010.

One issue for HR is how to best fight discrimination and negative attitudes to older workers. Any attempt to change attitudes is complex and part of the solution should be to highlight the benefits of employing older workers.  These include retention of key organisational knowledge and skills, and opportunities for coaching and mentoring.

In summary, the ageing workforce is one factor of many influencing future HR Operating Models, however we do need to think about:

1.    Clarity in roles around what we expect HR and Line Managers to do around key organisational activities such as improving performance and productivity.

2.    Choosing the right tools and technology to enable us to manage our workforce, from excellent analytics, to skills tracking and performance management.

3.    Deciding as an organisation, how you will deliver excellent change management.

We would be very interested to hear examples of how your organisation is dealing with some of these challenges? 


Share this post
(click on the flashing icon)

4 Responses to “Impact of an Ageing Workforce on HR”

  1. HR Transformer Blog – Most Popular Posts of 2010 - HR Transformer Blog - Member Blogs - HR Blogs - HR Space from Personnel Today and Xpert HR Says:

    [...] to Avoid HR Technology Bogeys An article outlining how to avoid making mistakes in implementing…Impact of an Ageing Workforce on HR An article on the impact of the ageing workforce on…Working Late – The Impact of an Ageing [...]

  2. Top 10 HR Transformation Articles in October - HR Transformer Blog - Member Blogs - HR Blogs - HR Space from Personnel Today and Xpert HR Says:

    [...] to Avoid HR Technology Bogeys An article outlining how to avoid making mistakes in implementing…Impact of an Ageing Workforce on HR An article on the impact of the ageing workforce on…Working Late – The Impact of an Ageing [...]

  3. AndySpence Says:

    I have added comments from relevant LinkedIn Groups as I thought they would be interesting for readers.  This comment comes from Les Potton Chartered FCIPD ACII on the CIPD Member Group on LinkedIn

    In general I think the average person has not yet got to grips with how massive an issue the ageing population is going to be in all walks of life.

    The need to eliminate ageist thinking will be very important going forward. It is often subconscious, based on assumptions around the ageing process and its impact on productivity etc.

    Managing the transition of people out of the workplace will be a much longer process than the old, one day you are employed, the next day retired. It should be done in partnership with the individual.

    HR should look at coaching workers into decisions around how they perhaps "wind down" to retirement over a longer period, rather than just RETIRE. Employees will have to think about both pension planning and transition planning in future years. Part time work for more years, will become a natural part of the financial equation for a lot of people. People may have to think about changing the type of role they perform later in life.

    Employers may have to be more open to requests to reduce hours and change working patterns etc, for workers in their 60s and 70s.

    This will help the business retain talent, and also guard against undignified performance related exits, when someone maybe can only work flat out for a limited number of hours per week.

    The programme on BBC recently showed how this will vary greatly from industry to industry. The biggest problem being in very physical roles such as construction. Those who saw the programme will see how brilliantly the 76 year old lady coped with waitressing, but the ex building site boys struggled.

    Doing proactive work on the issues above, will save HR time in the long run trying to unpick cases where managers have left it too late, and a misfiring older worker has to be performance managed, after a 50 year unblemished record.

    Joint planning of the later years between employer and employee will be key, but in itself could bring about constructive dismissal claims, if handled badly.

    Interesting times ahead ……

  4. AndySpence Says:

    Hi Les, many thanks for taking to time to comment on this subject. I agree that this issue is not being confronted in the workforce and more broadly in society. Your tactical suggestions for HR are really useful and show the importance of planning ahead rather than dealing with each case in turn.

    I saw some of the BBC programme and there were some real differences in how each person responded to getting back into the workplace. There is no blanket approach, each of the individuals responded so differently to the situation. We are already seeing that one feature of how the workforce has responded to the economic downturn is with more flexibility, more people are working less hours and we will see this with older workers.

    The Working Late research team at Loughborough Univeristy found some interesting responses from their interviews, and one that stood out for me reinforces your point about “undignified performance related exits”

    “..It’s kind of awful to think that people are going to end their careers going down a capability route of disciplinary because they are no longer capable of doing the role that’s required of them because they are older. No one wants to performance manage out an older worker as they’re reaching the end of their career […] regardless of legislation everyone wants careers to end with dignity.” (Employer, 42)

    Interesting times for all of us!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.