HR Forum

Mature-age workers can alleviate talent shortage

AS Malaysia’s economy grows, the demand for an available and experienced talent pool continues to increase. According to a recent World Bank report, Malaysia faces a critical shortage of skilled workers and this has in part, been attributed to skilled workers leaving the country.

Industries like financial services, information technology and manufacturing have openly acknowledged they are facing a critical skills shortage.

Part of this talent shortage can be met by an existing field of mature-age workers, complementing other Government initiatives aimed at attracting Malaysian talent abroad to return. Indeed, there are many benefits of retaining mature-age talent in the workforce for longer, but older workers say that prejudices still exist among employers.

Malaysia has one of the youngest retirement ages in the world, with private sector retirement at 55 years and for civil service employees, 58 years. Certainly, this represents both a challenge and opportunity for Malaysian employers.

Companies need to separate fact from myth and breakdown stereotypes associated with mature-age workers. The most common myths we hear are that older workers are reluctant to learn; they aren’t flexible or adaptable to change; and they take more sick days. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, mature-age workers are more likely to take up courses to enhance their skills and stay relevant in the workplace. Their experience helps them to question change and adopt new approaches. Importantly, we find the attendance records of older workers are actually better than their younger colleagues, with most Baby Boomers displaying a conscientious attitude to their role.

Here are a few tips for your business to consider when looking to attract and retain mature-age employees.

Tailor your attraction strategy

To gain the attention of mature-age job seekers, you may have to tailor your attraction strategy. This could be as simple as where you place your job advertisements, striking a balance between online and community newspapers. It is also important to make the advertisements ‘age-friendly’ and emphasise the ease of location, transport, job security, technology requirements, training plans and key benefits.

Leave personal bias at the door

Once you have a mature-age job candidate, it is important to develop interview questions that determine the candidate’s life skills and how they relate to the role, rather than focusing on age. Companies should also look at how they are representing themselves on the selection panel, by choosing a range of people of varying ages to conduct the interview, wherever possible. Upon appointment, employers should provide an induction process to make new employees feel welcome and comfortable.

Update skills

Mature-age workers should be offered the same opportunities for ongoing training, development and career progression as other age groups. Indeed, keeping employee skills up-to-date will reduce the need to recruit staff, increase productivity and decrease hiring costs.

Value your employees

Companies that effectively retain mature-age workers will retain experience, corporate knowledge, productivity and diversity in the workplace. In turn, these businesses should demonstrate they value mature-age employees by establishing a culture of respect and open communication in the workplace; paying appropriate wages and offering flexible work options.

Mature-age employees: Good for business

Many benefits can be gained by employing mature-age workers. Mature-age workers have been found to be committed, reliable, patient and resilient. They have a strong work ethic and are accountable to their managers and subordinates.

Encouraging a diverse workforce that has strong knowledge, skills and experience will be the driving force for a country’s long-term growth and productivity.

Article by Karin Clarke, Randstad regional director, Singapore & Malaysia.