Preparing for tomorrow's workforce

Monday 16 December 2013, 1:19PM
By Business NZ

Employers are being encouraged to turn silver hair into business gold by adapting their practices to retain older workers.

New Zealand’s workforce, relative to the whole population, is shrinking which means that businesses will be increasingly reliant on older workers to remain in the labour market in coming years.

And these workers will increasingly require arrangements such as reduced hours of work, flexibility in working time, lighter duties and a degree of focus on transition to retirement

Phil O’Reilly, BusinessNZ Chief Executive, says employers should take a close look at the age of their current workforce and plan to develop the human capital they already have.

A study carried out by BusinessNZ, Southern Cross Health Society and Gallagher Bassett, titled Wellness in the Workplace, shows that only 12.6% of Kiwi businesses have policies or arrangements in place for older workers.

“Clearly this is going to have to change because over the next few years a large proportion of our workforce will approach retirement age. That  represents  a lot of experience and wisdom leaving the market, potentially forever.”

O’Reilly says that just because they’re nearing the age of retirement doesn’t necessarily mean an employee wants to give up work - although they may want more flexibility.

“It comes down to understanding the external pressures your staff are under. We’ve come a long way in talking about work-life balance for parents, however older workers have equally important reasons for needing flexibility – they may have health issues to contend with, need to care for older parents or, increasingly, take on caring for grandchildren so the parents can return to paid work,” he says.

But it’s not just employers who need to get their head around an older work force

A September TNS survey commissioned by Southern Cross showed that almost 40% of New Zealanders expect to work past the current retirement age of 65. They cited needing the income as the main reason.

Peter Tynan, Southern Cross Health Society Chief Executive says health will be a crucial factor in a person’s ability to participate in the workforce.

“Going forward I think we’ll see an increasing realisation among employers of the importance of having a fit and healthy workforce that is able to work productively into their later years and more initiatives come into play to enable this.

“The face of our workforce is changing and this brings opportunities as well as challenges.”

The full Wellness in the Workplace 2013 survey can be found at: