Strategic workforce planning is a core business process that aligns the People Strategy with the future needs of the business.
A contemporary workforce plan considers the context, the current and future profiles of the workforce, identifies potential challenges and opportunities, ascertains the capabilities and the culture required for the business to thrive, sets the priorities and develops strategies for managing them.
This work enables proactive business decisions.
“The best way to build the best workforce is to focus on the largest talent pool you have” – Mary Dillon
In the 21st Century the prospect of living a long, healthy and productive life is a reality. World-wide the population is ageing; centenarians are growing in numbers, as are Semi-Supercentenarians (those aged and 105-109 years) and Supercentenarians (those age 110 plus).
Beyond mid-life we have confusing terminology to describe the stages of the second half of our lives – ‘older people, elders, the elderly, the aged, seniors and retirees’. Similar to other countries, New Zealand considered labour-force participation trends for men and women aged 50+ and estimated that there will be 43 people aged 65 and older per 100 people aged between 15-64 years in Aotearoa by 2040 – more than double the number there were 2000 (MSD 2006, Work in later life – opportunity or threat.
Clearly this trend presents both challenges and opportunities in the workplace. Older workers have better health than the generations that went before, a more favourable outlook on longevity, and will need the finance to support themselves in their decades of retirement. Encouraging older workers to remain the workforce could be advantageous all round – so, what are we doing about this?
Compulsory retirement was abolished under the Human Rights Act 1993, and the eligibility age for New Zealand Superannuation increased to 65.
Aside from these big policy decisions, few workplaces have made workforce planning a priority. Some workplaces offer seminars for staff on ‘Retirement’, but few have practices in place to encourage older workers to remain in the workforce apart from offering flexibility regarding hours of work. Without the foresight and planning, it is almost impossible to create the climate to have authentic conversations with staff (mid-life) about their plans and create adaptable career pathways to retain our talented mature workforce and provide the support and development to sustain it.
Nowadays chronological age is less of a factor in retirement thinking for some of us. In fact, the radical idea of ‘Retirement’ was introduced by Otto von Bismark in Prussia in 1881, at a time when people did not retire. The word ‘Retirement’ is outdated – it implies a ‘non-worker’ to ‘leave, recede, retreat, cease activity, give up or go way’ – hardly the image of the today’s ‘Third Agers’. Hemingway called ‘Retirement’ “the ugliest word in the English language”. The world has moved on, the territory has changed – but has our thinking about ageing, and retirement? The reality is that with increased life expectancy workers may choose to spend more years in ‘Retirement’ relative to the number of years they spent in the workforce.
It’s time to make strategic workforce planning a priority. It’s also an opportunity to reframe our thinking on ‘Retirement’, eliminate ageist attitudes and create a new mind-set that values the diversity and experience of our ageing workforce.
For organisations facing skill shortages there is a strong imperative to develop and implement workforce plans that make it more attractive for older workers to choose to stay in the labour force.
Contemporary human resource policies and practices will be required to support effective implementation and create the culture to support and sustain the future of the enterprise. Older workers have years of work experience, levels of job satisfaction and financial and non-financial benefits to reflect on. To enable them to consider their options pre-retirement education and phased retirement should be available to all employees.
Innovative strategic workforce plans could include encore career opportunities; new or different meaningful work building on existing knowledge and skills with an element of growth and renewal, flexibility regarding time and responsibility.
This work must be valued by colleagues and employers and be an appealing alternative to remaining in the same job past the traditional retirement age or opting for ‘Retirement’. The benefits are substantial all round. Does your organisation have a 21st Century Workforce Plan? If you need a hand contact me.