Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Research: Aging Workforce Requires Business to Rethink Working Lives

Early research into the effects of an extended working life and the challenges and opportunities that an older workforce will generate suggests that--in terms of job performance, wellbeing and skills--older workers are a much less homogenous group than younger workers. According to Professor Philip Taylor, director of the Business, Work and Ageing Centre for Research at Swinburne University of Technology, there is an increasing variation in people’s abilities as they get older and management may need to hink in terms of preparing workers when they are younger, for a longer working life.
"Policy around ageing workers needs to be about maintaining the ‘work ability’ of people throughout their life-course--not just once they are older," Professor Taylor says. "It’s about life-long learning and about how factors such as job design, work environment and skills training determine the condition in which workers arrive at the age of 50."
Among other things, Taylor says that the assumption that older workers are not interested in, or capable of, further training, is baseless, but there is evidence that "older workers prefer a different style of training than younger workers. For instance, they prefer hands-on practical training rather than classroom-style training."
Professor Taylor says another major issue for older workers is a sense of exclusion from the workplace. "Our research shows that older workers often feel they are being pushed out by not being invited to take part in training, meetings or other workplace events." This will become an increasing issue as more workers take advantage of transition-to-retirement arrangements that allow them to work part-time. "Part-time work is often not seen as real work. Managers need to be re-educated to respect different kinds of working arrangements and accept that older workers have a great deal to contribute to the workplace."
Source: Swinburne Magazine "Longer work life needs management re-think" (March 2008)

Also, see Philip Taylor (Editor), Ageing Labour Forces: Promises and Prospects (2008)

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