Are we making the most of our aging workforce?

May 1, 2019

 

It’s easy to focus on the workforce of the future, but are we in danger of forgetting who got us to where we are today?

The workplace will soon contain as many as five different generations, with ages that span as much as fifty years. From Baby Boomers and Gen Xers to Gen Y, millennials, and soon the much talked about Generation Z, recent topics have mainly focused on the issue of how to attract and retain younger employees. But are we in danger of ignoring the people who have built the businesses we’re currently sat in?
 
We know that Baby Boomers are heading towards retirement age, but many of them are continuing their working life – or would like to if there was a bit more flexibility. I think that businesses are looking at flexible ways of working for younger workers, but aren’t focusing on this so much when it comes to the older generations. By the time my dad, an Electronic Engineer, retired around three years ago, he was the only person in the company who knew how to fix faults with certain products because of the way the company had developed over time. When he left, those skills and knowledge left with him. He is a reflection of the current fears around the aging workforce in both the engineering and automotive sectors specifically; how did it come to be that he was the only person who could do that, despite the company still supplying these products to clients? And more importantly, why were his organisation not able to provide a flexible option that enabled him to keep his eye in and allow them to benefit from the knowledge he has whilst balancing his time between his multiple retirement hobbies? Companies in similar positions could perhaps benefit from offering these sorts of employees work on a consultancy basis, so that their skills and knowledge are not gone one day and never to be seen again, as well as making sure those skills are passed down to the next generation of workers. I know that this does happen across the market at the moment, but it doesn’t seem to be a key focus.
 
When it comes to the aging workforce, we surely need to look at the freedom of the working environment. We need to look at being flexible for all generations, setting strategies so that we’re using people in different ways – ways that suit them, utilise their strengths, motivate them and keep them enjoying what they do. For the Baby Boomer generation in particular, they can provide excellent knowledge and value if only they’re given the opportunity to. My advice going forward? Don’t set your strategy solely for the future, think about what you currently have, too.

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