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COMMENTARY
HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Singapore
Published: 03 May 11
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Karin Clarke

Mature-age workers can address the skills-gap in Singapore

BY KARIN CLARKE

As Singapore’s economy grows, the demand for an available and experienced talent pool continues to increase. According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), 115,900 new jobs were added to the local labour market in 2010. Industries like financial services, manufacturing and healthcare have openly acknowledged they are facing a critical skills shortage.

Here at Randstad, we believe this skills gap can be addressed by an existing field of mature-age workers. Indeed, there are many benefits of retaining mature-age talent in the workforce for longer, but older workers say that prejudices still exist among employers.

Singapore’s ageing population is one of Asia’s fastest-growing, with 19 per cent of the population forecast to be aged 65 years and above by 2030, according to the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS). Certainly, this represents a challenge and opportunity for Singapore employers.

Companies need to separate fact from myth and break-down stereotypes associated with mature-age workers. The most common myths we hear is that older workers are reluctant to learn; they aren’t flexible or adaptable to change; and they take more sick days. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, mature-age workers are more likely to take up courses to enhance their skills and stay relevant in the workplace. Their experience helps them to question change and adopt new approaches. Importantly, we find the attendance records of older workers are actually better than their younger colleagues, with most Baby Boomers displaying a conscientious attitude to their role.

Here are a few tips for your business to consider when looking to attract and retain mature-age employees.

Tailor your attraction strategy
To gain the attention of mature-age job seekers, you may have to tailor your attraction strategy. This could be as simple as where you place your job advertisements, striking a balance between online and community newspapers. It is also important to make the advertisements ‘age-friendly’ and emphasise the ease of location, transport, job security, technology requirements, training plans and key benefits.

Leave personal bias at the door
Once you have a mature-age job candidate, it is important to develop interview questions that determine the candidate’s life skills and how they relate to the role, rather than focusing on age. Companies should also look at how they are representing themselves on the selection panel, by choosing a range of people of varying ages to conduct the interview, wherever possible. Upon appointment, employers should provide an induction process to make new employees feel welcome and comfortable.

Update skills
Mature-age workers should be offered the same opportunities for ongoing training, development and career progression as other age groups. There are a number of educational institutions in Singapore that offer adult education courses. Indeed, keeping employee skills up-to-date will reduce the need to recruit staff, increase productivity and decrease hiring costs.

Value your employees
Companies that effectively retain mature-age workers will retain experience, corporate knowledge, productivity and diversity in the workplace. In turn, these businesses should demonstrate they value mature-age employees by establishing a culture of respect and open communication in the workplace; paying appropriate wages and offering flexible work options.

Mature-age employees: Good for business
There are many benefits to gain by employing mature-age workers. Certainly, during our 20 years of experience in Asia, we have found mature-age workers to be committed, reliable, patient and resilient. They have a strong work ethic and are accountable to their managers and subordinates.

Encouraging a diverse workforce that has strong knowledge, skills and experience will be the driving force for Singapore’s long-term growth and productivity. We look forward to partnering with the local labour market to realise this goal.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

Karin Clarke

Karin Clarke

Karin Clarke is the Randstad Regional Director for Singapore & Malaysia.

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Tags: Karin Clarke, Randstad, Ministry of Manpower, Singapore employers

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