Is your business ready for our ageing workforce?

ageing workforce

I recently watched The Intern movie (on a plane with limited options) where a 70-year-old (Robert De Niro) returns to work after retirement to become a senior intern at an online fashion site under Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). The movie highlights one of the biggest reasons that people over 65 return to work – to continue to give back and to create meaning and purpose in their lives.

Our Future

In 20 years time, the number of people aged 65+ in New Zealand will double. The number of people still working after turning 65, will be 320,000. I wonder if our national ‘retirement age’ will have changed by then?

The ageing population trends for Nelson:

  • Nelson is ageing faster than the rest of NZ (projected to have 33% of the population aged over 65 by the year 2043, compared to 23% for all of NZ) Read again – that’s 1/3 of Nelson’s population over 65!
  • Nelson will then have more older people than children
  • There will be more competition for skilled workers to work in Nelson.

I recently attended a Nelson MINDZ forum (a forum connecting key Nelson decision makers in workplace mental health) where Mary Somervell, Director of InsideOutworks, presented and led a discussion on the challenges and opportunities of the ageing workforce.  It really challenged my thinking about this age group. There will be many businesses with a workforce of people spanning five generations.

Challenges of the ageing workforce

But first, what are the challenges of retaining older workers?

  • The digital lag – younger people are often required to teach older people how to use technology
  • Burn-out – the feeling of ‘having done my time’
  • Safety – some essential skills such as coordination, machine operation, fitness, eyesight, etc are in decline and possibly putting others at risk.
  • Lack of motivation – just ‘hanging in there until I can get out of here’, is not an attitude that contributes to change, innovation or growth to an organisation.
Benefits of the ageing workforce

On the flip side, however, there are benefits to retaining older workers:

  • Tolerance and patience – these qualities are sometimes lacking in the younger generations
  • Flexibility – the ability to work the shifts that people with young families cannot
  • Level-headedness – utilising experience by remaining calm and making good decisions when under pressure
  • Mentoring – being able to pass on valuable skills to younger employees that would otherwise be lost
  • Work-readiness – filling in at the last minute when another employee is sick, or being able to come on for a particular contract
  • Relating to older consumers
  • Stability and reliability – usually happy with set routines.

When people stay working for longer, this has flow-on effects into the wider community. People who continue to work tend to remain more active and therefore, healthier. They are less dependent and have more earnings to spend. I challenge you to think about your workplace and how you can prepare and benefit from our ageing workforce.



Written by Chantell Bramley

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