Wednesday 24 October 2012

Companies urged to make the most of older workers

Amy Khor calls for better workplace practices as S'pore workforce ages
By Jonathan Kwok, The Straits Times, 23 Oct 2012

AS THE "silver tsunami" of ageing Singaporeans looms about a decade off, the Government has urged companies to take steps to make the most of older workers.

Minister of State for Manpower Amy Khor said that companies can use technology or reorganise their factories to make it easier for workers to perform their tasks.

There is also a need to properly manage older workers, including offering them good work-life balance and allowing them to mentor younger colleagues.

"While the full impact of the ageing population, or the 'silver tsunami' as some may say, may still be some 10 years away, some companies have already come to the realisation that their best, most experienced workers are getting older," she said at a conference yesterday.

"Companies need to start building up the capabilities to tackle these challenges now."

Companies can automate work processes or redesign jobs to reduce the physical strain among older workers, allowing them to work to an older age, and thus easing companies' manpower shortages.

Dr Khor noted better job designs also benefit younger staff.

She cited the example of health supplements retailer ONI Global, which tapped the Advantage! scheme of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency to buy a machine that automatically wraps pallets in their plant.

This means that workers no longer need to work at heights to wrap the tops of the pallets, reducing the risk of accidents.

The quality of the film wrapping also became better and more consistent after the introduction of the machine.

"Thus, a one-time investment has benefited all workers and raised productivity too," said Dr Khor, who is also Minister of State for Health.

She also said that companies should adopt "progressive" human resource practices, including a focus on work-life balance.

"Employers must recognise that flexible work arrangements are increasingly sought after, not just by older workers or back-to-work women, but by all employees."

She noted that companies can allow older workers to keep working, while mentoring younger colleagues, to ensure that their experience and knowledge is not lost.

She cited the example of port operator PSA Corp, which is tapping older workers to train younger staff.

Mr Pang Chong Liu, 53, has been with PSA for 17 years, and has worked as a container equipment specialist and operations supervisor. He is now with PSA's training arm to conduct training and mentor new recruits.

Dr Khor noted that Mr Pang has improved the yard crane training syllabus and made the assessments more rigorous.

She was speaking at the Human Capital Forum organised by the Singapore Business Federation.

About 130 senior executives attended the event at Resorts World Sentosa, which looked at human resource and productivity issues.

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