Of Canada’s 19.7-million labour force, about 5.0 million persons (25%) are 55 years of age or older, most of whom are between 55 and 65. (Only about 4% of the labour force is over 65.) This pool of older workers is a rich resource of knowledge and skills. Introduction of an age-management strategy within every organization will provide opportunities for both the younger and older worker while increasing the efficiency of the business. Both government and industry are attempting to facilitate the inter-generational transfer of knowledge, but education takes time; the accumulation of skills through experience can take a long time. Organizations, with their daily demand for traditional as well as new skills, cannot just wait for the education system to provide the new skills.
As can be expected, a person’s work abilities may decline with age as both physical and mental functions diminish with aging. Because the natural rate of physical and mental decline depends on each individual and is not indicated by universal markers such as teething, walking, talking and puberty in children, it is difficult to determine an exact age when an individual’s physical and mental capacity suggests retirement.
ENFORCE COMPLIANCE WITH SAFETY RULES
Studies of European workers have found that workers over 50 are more likely to have accidents within the workplace regardless of the amount of training provided before the job commenced. This suggests that employers need to provide the best safety equipment and rigorously enforce compliance with all safety procedures. Safety should be part of every job.
The accident experience of older workers should temper the sometimes risky practical joking and carelessness of some younger workers by showing them potentially dangerous situations and behaviours. With old and young looking out for one another, an overall safer workplace should reduce the high cost of injury not only to the individual but also to the business.
RETAIN THE MATURE WORKER AND BENEFIT THE ORGANIZATION
Offering the mature worker the opportunity to work at full capacity provides benefits to the younger worker. Accommodating the needs of older workers can certainly assist in maintaining productivity and may even reduce the possibility of injury to employees or damage to property that often accompany exhaustion or inattentiveness brought on by the work environment.
Many factors will improve the workplace and therefore employee productivity:
- Establish flexible working schedules not only in the number of hours worked per day, but also the time of day that work is performed. For example, doing roofing in the early morning or later in the day when temperatures are lower than between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. will enhance both productivity and safety.
- Rotate jobs not only to remove monotony (a contributor to accidents) but also to provide a greater depth and range of skills within the workplace among more employees so that a task does not get interrupted when someone leaves, goes on vacation or is off sick.
- Ensure a mix of younger workers in any work team. Not only can “old dogs” learn new tricks, but “young dogs” can learn old tricks. Stress on older workers can be reduced if younger workers take on the more demanding physical elements of the task.
- Reduce the stress on all employees by investing in:
- Ergonomically designed tools and machinery and a workplace environment that reduces stress through noise reduction, mats on floors and appropriate lighting and air conditioning
- Personal safety equipment that not only complies with legislation, but also meets the needs of all employees
- Safety education and insistence that all safety rules and regulations be followed
- Employee-by-employee risk assessment; younger employees would be evaluated on their ability to complete a task without the experience of a seasoned veteran
COMBINE AND CONTINUE
There are many 50+ workers who want to continue working not only for the income but also because they enjoy working and need to feel a purpose in life. A program that considers the work ability of employees on an individual basis regardless of age and co-mingles employees of different ages in the performance of tasks is an excellent means of ensuring the continuation of business by combining the skills and patience of the older generation with the enthusiasm and productivity of the younger worker.
***This article was originally published in Volume 32, Issue 2 of Business Matters in March 2018. BUSINESS MATTERS deals with a number of complex issues in a concise manner; it is recommended that accounting, legal or other appropriate professional advice should be sought before acting upon any of the information contained therein. Although every reasonable effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this letter, no individual or organization involved in either the preparation or distribution of this letter accepts any contractual, tortious, or any other form of liability for its contents or for any consequences arising from its use. BUSINESS MATTERS is prepared bimonthly by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada for the clients of its members. Richard Fulcher, CPA, CA – Author; Patricia Adamson, M.A., M.I.St. – CPA Canada Editor.