HR Briefing: Empowering SG’s ageing workforce in a tech-driven world

Those over 60 years old are more willing to retrain compared to other age groups.

The acceleration of the adoption of technology in the workplace had been more challenging for the ageing workforce, compared to the younger ones who are much too familiar with digital tools.

Despite the digital hurdle, it seems Singapore’s ageing workforce has no plans of backing down as Jobstreet reported 67% of them showed a willingness to retrain for new roles, the highest amongst all age groups. How then can employers equip mature workers to navigate the tech-driven world?

JobStreet Singapore Managing Director Chew Siew Mee said employers should provide training and learning opportunities for the ageing workforce. This is particularly valuable as JobStreet found a rise in worker demand for roles such as machine learning engineer, cyber security engineer, and business analyst, amongst others.

She, however, flagged applications for specialised roles that are still behind. Citing data between the first quarter of 2018 and the last quarter of 2020, the number of job openings grew by 10% against the 37% drop in the applications per job.

“It means the war for talent in the digital age is inevitable. Therefore, investing in ongoing training for employees to address expertise gaps has become more important than ever,” Chew told Singapore Business Review.

In its Decoding Global Talent report, Jobstreet found that 93% of Singaporeans spent time upskilling, through on-the-job training or online learning. At the same time, Singaporeans are also the most threatened by automation, compared to their Southeast Asian neighbours.  

“The increased concern is especially common for candidates involved in manual work and repetitive tasks as they are the most vulnerable to job losses,” she said. In particular, those in finance and auditing (73%), customer service (69%), and manual work and manufacturing (68%) are the most threatened.

In contrast, this fear is less prevalent for those in healthcare and social, and law and research, respondents maintain that the “human touch” cannot be replaced by technology.

Nevertheless, Chew said employers should provide for a channel to gather feedback from and respond to employees amidst automation concerns that could be “detrimental” to workers’ well-being.

Employers should also provide solutions that directly address these fears, such as offering resources to middle-aged workers to improve their employability in the long run.

“It is worth noting that automation will displace some jobs, but it will create new opportunities, as well. However, those are the better-quality jobs that require new skill sets,” she said.

“Therefore, learning continuously and constant expansion of skills will help us to remain relevant and tap on opportunities created by automation.”

Likewise, Kerry Consulting’s Director, Technology Practice Patricia Teo said that automation will likely replace repetitive and manual jobs. For instance, call centres might include more chatbots that have been developed to be more intuitive with artificial intelligence.

Amidst the digital transformation, Teo said the management and the human resource department should work in determining how job roles will change and identify the talent needed in the next five to 10 years.

“Without a clear understanding of the expected skillsets, it will be difficult to plan curriculum or training tools to meaningfully enable the ageing workforce,” Teo told Singapore Business Review.

She added an openness in communication is vital as it allows the company to acknowledge the new skillset require and put it on a proactive stance in preparing its employees.

Teo said C-level employees may even set an example by attending training and show some of their “vulnerability” in their own skillset, or cite successful employees who have undergone training to upgrade their skillset

For older workers, she suggested employers may provide program that features online and offline training. A buddy system may also be considered to allow workers to have “emotional and mental support.”

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