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What does an ageing workforce mean for performance management?

On 5 March 2015, the Australian Government released the latest, much-anticipated Intergenerational Report. The report predicts changes to Australia’s population over the next 40 years, making it an incredibly useful tool for building workplace systems that are fit for the future.

The data attracting the most attention in the report is focused on Australia’s ageing workforce. This got me thinking about the impact an older workforce will have on performance management.

We know that workplaces of the future will be highly collaborative and fast-moving. We also know that for people to develop quickly enough to keep up, we need a more ‘agile’ approach to performance management. My question is, does an older workforce support this need for Agile Performance Management?’

Agile performance management guide

A quick introduction to the Intergenerational Report

At least every five years the Government produces an Intergenerational Report to test the long-term sustainability of current policies. For Australian businesses, it’s a welcome opportunity to prepare for the future.

The report specifically looks at changes to Australia’s workforce size and age profile. The HR world can use this data to predict challenges (and opportunities) in work participation and productivity levels.

What will the Australian workforce look like in 2055?

The Australian Workforce in 2055 chart

The Intergenerational Report confirms that in 2055 Australia’s workforce will have many older workers than today (the key statistics are included in the graphic above).

As a proportion of Australia’s population, in the future there will be fewer people of traditional working age. (Relative to 1975 there will be 4.6 less working-age people to support each person over the age of 65.)

As a result, the report anticipates a 34% increase in the number of people staying in work beyond the age of 65. Put another way, by 2055 nearly one in five members of the Australian workforce will be aged over 65.

Why an older workforce makes Agile Performance Management even more critical

The report expects that the decrease in the number of available workers will be solved by older generations working for longer

We knew the population was ageing, but this data predicts a much bigger change than many of us would have expected. As a result, it’s critical that our workplaces are future-ready for a changing workforce.

The report expects that the decrease in the number of available workers will be solved by older generations working for longer. If this turns out to be correct, then Agile Performance Management will be crucial. Here’s why:

  1. Regular check-ins
    As we become more experienced, and grow older, it’s natural that we may not find enjoyment in the same things or be interested in doing the same kind of tasks. Regular check-ins between workers and managers will highlight these changes before they become problematic. As a result, workflow and task allocation can be changed accordingly. Excellent talent management is all about having the right person doing the right job at the right time.
  2. Capability development
    Being open to and acquiring new skills is crucial for older workers for two reasons:

    • The rate of technological change means that everyone needs to continually learn new skills to perform their jobs effectively. Younger generations tend to be naturally faster at picking up new skills, so developing the tech-based capabilities of older workers should be a priority to ensure their relevance in the workplace.
    • Roles are set to become broader as work becomes more collaborative. Older workers may need to develop new capabilities to make the most of this dynamic environment.
  3. Coaching and mentoring
    The experience of more mature workers is an excellent asset for any company. There’s a significant opportunity to utilise mature workers in coaching and mentoring roles to improve the knowledge and expertise of less experienced employees. Coaching doesn’t need to go in just one direction either (for example, younger workers could also coach older workers on technological skills).
  4. Frequent feedback
    Older workers may, or may not, be motivated to climb the corporate ladder, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need feedback. Regular feedback isn’t just for long-term development: it also has a major role in improving performance day-to-day. Regular feedback has also been proven to increase engagement, decrease stress levels, improve workplace relationships and optimise efficiency. (All of which translates to higher levels of job satisfaction and healthier, happier employees).

In conclusion

Our workforce is ageing. As a result, over coming decades there will be more people aged 65+ remaining in the workforce than ever before. It’s our job now to make sure these workers stay engaged, productive and happy at work. The fundamentals of Agile Performance Management (including ongoing feedback and mentoring) will be essential in ensuring older workers continue to contribute meaningfully, and at their highest level of performance.

Jon Windust

Jon Windust is the CEO at Cognology – Talent management software for the future of work. Over 250 Australian businesses use Cognology to power cutting-edge talent strategy. You can follow Jon on Twitter or LinkedIn.