HR’s future: more older workers, fewer youngsters

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HR professionals need to “get to grips” with the changing demographic profile of their ageing workforce, according to Simon Bennett, CEO of Madison Recruitment.

Statistics New Zealand forecasts that our population of 4.4 million in 2012 will reach 6 million by 2061. The number of people aged over 65 is set to increase from 600,000 in 2012 (14 per cent of the population) to 1.5 million in 2061 (26 per cent).

“Long story short: more older workers, fewer youngsters. This trend has huge implications both for job-seekers and employers,” Bennett warned.

While older generations anecdotally tend to demonstrate employer loyalty, younger employees will work with any one organisation for two or three years before moving on.

“Younger people coming into the workforce are adapting to the needs of employers and taking an increasingly different view of their career paths. As a result, the full-time employee could soon be on the endangered species list,” Bennett said.

“Its replacement is the fixed-term contract – which means employees get a three or six-month, or one-year contract, and at the end of that they will need to find another job.”

HR departments will have to “get to grips with the changing age profile of their workforce”, he added.

“The statistical projections show there will be fewer and fewer ‘bright young things’ to compete for,” he said.

“Organisations are also going to have to accept that an increasing proportion of their workforce will be older employees, who will no doubt demand salaries commensurate with their skills and experience.”

Ageing employees must be prepared to adapt too, particularly by “learning new skills, and to multitask, and to be flexible”, Bennett said.
  • Helena on 3/10/2014 2:07:17 p.m.

    * younger employees adapt to short term employment and job changes because they don't have the skills and experience to expect more, nor have they typically made the commitments (like mortgages) that demand greater financial security. While the economy plays a big part, it really speaks to that stage in life that every employee will go through.
    * older workers now may be more 'loyal', but that speaks to where they have come from - it says little about what the older workers of 2061 will be like. The ageing workforce in 2061 will be a product of the work environment now and in the next decades - so if the norm now is to change jobs as often as we change technology, the ‘bright young things' now will be well prepared to do that when they are 'aging' in 2061.
    * let’s not forget that there will always be ‘bright young things’ to compete for as long as the population continues to grow, however the proportion might change. In the case where there are fewer ‘bright young things’ competing, wouldn’t it suggest there is more chance for the older employees than before? In that case, less need for them to adapt to compete?
    * permanent offers of employment are unlikely to disappear in favour of fixed term offers because of the much-needed stability they offer, not just the worker but the economy at large. Will the bank easily issue a new 20 year mortgage to someone on a 2 year fixed term contract? Will an individual borrow any large amount of money without confidence they can pay it back? While changing roles every couple of years for career progression or other reasons will probably continue and be common-place, there remains the security that the person has that employment, and the implication that they wouldn’t give it up without something else.

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