HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Singapore

How Singaporeans must hire in the 'no retire' future

Singapore’s ageing workforce means employers need to consider age-friendly recruitment practices, phased retirements, work/life balance and training in order to accommodate the changes to our working age population.

While seven percent of Singapore’s population is currently over the age of 65, by 2030 this will increase to 19 percent, according to the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Aging Report . This rapid increase accounts for why Singapore’s working age population will fall by 338,000 people by 2030.

Singapore is not alone in this trend and in our report Creating Jobs in a Global Economy, compiled in partnership with economic forecaster Oxford Economics, we illustrate that this ageing workforce is a major challenge moving forward for the developed world.

As the population ages, Singapore’s economy will become increasingly reliant on the contribution from workers aged 62 (the current retirement age) or over. Last year, Singapore's Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Boon Heng indicated that the country may need to increase the retirement age to 68, while next year it will be mandatory for employers to offer re-employment to workers beyond the age of 62.

But raising the retirement age is not enough to enable older people to stay at work and remain productive. There are several practical steps employers can take to accommodate an ageing workforce and retain their skills.

Age-friendly recruitment practices
As our population ages, age-friendly recruitment practices are essential. This means writing vacancy advertisements that focus on the skills required for the role, rather than implying the age of applicants. For example, avoid references such as, ‘you will be part of a young dynamic team’.

When thinking about age-friendly recruitment practices, you may also like to review the practices and attitudes of your hiring managers to ensure they select from the best pool of suitable candidates, not only those of a particular age group.

Decisions should be made based upon a priority list of selection criteria, and you should make sure this list is applied consistently to all candidates.

Work/life balance
Various studies have shown that work/life balance is critically important in order to maintain the mature aged employees’ capacity to remain in the workforce. So how can you best make work/life balance work for the benefit of both your business and all of its employees?

You could consider allowing employees to telecommute or work from home, or offer flexible start and finish times, working part-time and job share.

When you receive a flexible working request, individual job functions of course need to be considered, and certain duties may naturally preclude the ability to offer certain options. For example, a customer-facing role may not be suitable to work from home options, but perhaps you could consider job share or an arrangement where the employee starts two hours later?

Phased retirements
Phased retirements involve an employee gradually transitioning from full employment to full retirement. For example, over a period of several years an employee could gradually reduce the number of hours or days worked. In this way, you retain their skills and knowledge for as long as possible, while allowing them to transition from work to retirement at their own pace.

Developing a flexible policy for phased retirements should therefore be on your agenda, although you need to be prepared for it to take time and consultation to work out.

There exists an unfortunate myth that older generations do not want to learn new ways of performing their job function or are unwilling to learn new technologies, despite a number of studies showing that mature age employees want to continue to learn. Indeed, it is often the incorrect perception that mature age employees are set in their ways that is the barrier preventing them from receiving skills advancement opportunities.

You may also need to offer training to the managers of mature age employees. Your management team must be comfortable managing people older than they are. Conversely your mature age workers need to be comfortable reporting to someone younger than them.

Open dialogue can help you determine how to motivate your mature age employees, who need inspiration just as much as their younger colleagues. From speaking to our mature age candidates, it is clear there is a genuine desire to remain valued and involved in the workplace. So we advise employers to hone this desire and ensure that their mature age employees are contributing in a way that makes best use of their skills.

But what motivates one employee may not motivate another. Thus your line managers need to ensure they are tuned in to what motivates all their staff, not just those they consider to be their young high achievers.

Hays, the world’s leading recruiting experts in qualified, professional and skilled people.

Chris Mead, General Manager,  Hays in Singapore 

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.

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