The value of mature workers to organisations in Singapore

01 May 2013
Published: May 2013
 
This report, produced in collaboration with Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP), explores the attitudes of employers in Singapore towards mature workers and the return on investment they bring to organisations.

Key findings

Who counts as ‘mature’?
Definitions of ‘mature’ are not limited to employees approaching or over retirement age. Most define ‘mature’ workers as those aged between 50 and 59 or older, although a substantial minority (of various ages) include younger age groups.
 
Most organisations are age-diverse
69% describe their existing workforce as a mixture of ages. Smaller organisations are less likely to have a mix of ages among their employees.
 
Attitudes to mature workers are overwhelmingly positive
98% highly value the knowledge and skills of mature workers and 71% disagree that mature workers cost organisations more money.
 
Managing mature workers presents distinct challenges
79% agree mature workers expect a better balance between their work and personal life; 38% find managing their career expectations a challenge; 66% believe younger managers often find it difficult managing mature employees.
Mature workers bring many benefits
Most commonly greater experience, higher loyalty and commitment and a stronger work ethic.
 
Organisations benefit from the skills and competences of mature workers
Including better mentoring, leading and coaching, better knowledge of the business and ways of doing things, good transferable skills, better problem-solving abilities, fewer mistakes, a stronger skills base and better customer understanding.
 
Younger workers have the edge on sales, flexibility and reduced salary costs
Although a sizeable minority report mature workers bring these benefits to their organisations.
 
Reduced turnover and absence costs
59% report that compared with a younger person in a similar role, mature employees in their organisation reduce turnover costs and 54% that they reduce absence costs.
The vast majority focus recruitment on a mixture of ages
Most report that recruitment is based on merit or the requirements of the job. Some specifically sought a good balance of ages to benefit from a diverse range of experiences, skills and ideas.
 
A quarter did not hire any mature employees last year
Although this reduced to 7% of those with more than 250 employees. The vast majority report they do recruit mature hires even if they hadn’t last year.
 
Mature hires have advantages over school-leavers
In particular higher perceived loyalty and commitment, better job-related skills, lower turnover, lower levels of absence and a higher work ethic. Comments suggest they also require less training time and are more suited to supervisory positions and for handling disputes and conflicts.
 
The majority report no age-related preference in recruiting
Just one in ten prefer mature recruits, mostly due to lower turnover, and just 7% prefer younger employees for various reasons.
Older workers need more encouragement to participate in training
68% report they need more encouragement to take part and 48% that they do not put themselves forward for training.
 
Mature employees are less adaptable to technological changes
61% agree and just 7% disagree, although several respondents gave examples of how productivity and efficiency had improved following training mature workers in new technologies.
 
Organisations need to adapt and improve their training for older workers
70% agree that mature employees engage better with training if the content and delivery is adapted to their needs. Forty per cent agree their organisation needs to improve its training for older workers.
 
Mixed views on the cost-benefits of training and development
Nearly half agree return on investment is good because mature employees are less likely to leave the company, but most are neutral regarding whether the cost–benefits ratio for training mature employees is weak, possibly because it varies according to the individual involved and the quality and relevance of the training.
 
Varied benefits of training mature workers
Respondents cite varied benefits, including improved productivity, efficiency, communications and customer interface, as well as enhanced motivation, commitment and adaptability of those involved.
Two-fifths report increased interest in wanting to work later in life
Predominantly for financial reasons but also for social or personal motivations, including personal fulfilment, contributing to society and enjoyment.
 
Lack of interest in continuing to work is mainly due to personal motivations
Organisations that had not noticed an increase in desire to continue working mostly put it down to lack of interest or a perception of retirement as a desirable goal. Only a minority cited lack of senior management support, higher healthcare and insurance costs or cultural reasons for people’s lack of interest in staying at work.
 
Retirement policies vary
Most large organisations have the national retirement age of 62, with employees able to work longer subject to mutual agreement. Smaller organisations are more likely not to have a fixed retirement age.
 
Re-employment in same job for same salary
This is offered by 81% of organisations. A quarter offer the same job for less money and a similar proportion offer a different role or re-employment on a part-time basis.
While mature employees are seen as extremely valuable to organisations, the findings here suggest that customised approaches may be needed to engage and motivate them and maximise their productivity in later years. The findings highlight the following areas for attention.
 
Training and development for mature workers
Most believe that training and skills development are critical in ensuring mature employees can work effectively up to age 62 and beyond. The findings also suggest that mature workers may need additional encouragement to take part in training. To engage them, organisations need to tailor training to individual and organisational requirements and communicate effectively regarding its purpose and benefits.
 
Train and support line managers
Managing the career expectations of mature workers can be a challenge for organisations and younger managers in particular find it difficult managing mature employees. Clear policies, training and support can help ensure line managers are up to date on re-employment options and age-related management issues. Managers need to avoid making assumptions about individuals’ career ambitions. They need to implement timely communications regarding individual needs and how they align with those of the organisation to help retain mature employees in ways that add value, ease transitions and allow for succession planning.
 
Flexible working options
The majority of organisations report that mature workers expect a better balance between their work and personal life. Flexible working options can help them achieve this and consequently can be beneficial for recruiting and retaining talent.
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