Monday, March 19, 2012

Will older workers solve the labour shortage? Part 2

Last spring, the government rolled out a new human resources strategy to meet the expected demand for workers in Alberta. One of the initiatives was encouraging older workers to remain in or return to the workforce. As I wrote at the time, this policy statement seemed to be mostly wishful thinking.

Post-Media has started a series on the use of older workers. Today’s article raises a number of questions, the most important being whether employers really want older workers?
But will employers want older workers around? Already, the aging workforce is forcing organizations to wrestle with such uncomfortable issues as seniors' ability to keep up with job demands, the degree to which physical or mental deterioration can compromise performance, and the cost to companies' bottom lines if a large segment of their staff is silver-aged.

"The older cohort will very likely be high users of expensive services, products and medical programs, which will put health-benefits costs through the roof," says Mike Cuma, a human-resources expert who predicts many organizations will be "unwilling or un-able" to meet the demands of such a shift.
This will be an interesting series to follow.

-- Bob Barnetson


  1. This is an interesting problem for employers to be sure. The older workers are most often the traditionalists and soon the baby boomers and how they perceive and communicate in the workplace will be an issue as well as motivations. I am already seeing tensions develop between older workers and our gen x's and y's.

    In regards to safety it will also be a pressing issue as we will be inheriting degenerative conditions with backs and joints. Its been proven that older workers most often are less likely to experience a traumatic workplace injury however when they do the potential lost time (the thing a company get very badly penalized for) is also very extended for recovery.

    I think older workers can present some definite value for experience but it is going to take a cany employer to best utilize the benefits vs. the detractors.

  2. Supposedly according to government and various empirical studies the Canadian economy will have to rely on older workers to stay in the workforce longer. This is simply for the fact that the generation X and Y workers have not acquired the same skill set as the baby boomers.

    The problem with the concept is that the hiring of older workers does not ring true with employers (unless they currently have older workers on their staffs) as they are reluctant to hire anyone over 55. There appears to be a view that we cannot let go of the past or traditional ways of doing things. I disagree with the view. Since retiring in the fall of 2008, I have been completing my education at AU and am interested in a career in a totally new direction.

    Employers though looking at my resume would appear to have the view that this person is an older individual and what can he possibly offer our company. I have talked to a few human resources professionals about this situation and they have classified it as age discrimination plain and simple. While the Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits age discrimination the legislation is not very effective at the employment application stage. In other words there is no way to police how organizations view the resumes of older workers that are trying to recycle themselves into new careers. So while the concept is good of keeping older workers in the workforce or hiring experienced workers is good in espoused theory it is another thing to see it in actual practise.