The ageing workforce vs young talent

April, 2015

Globally the rate of population growth is declining while the workforce is ageing. From an employment perspective, an ageing workforce does present challenges but can also be a source of priceless experience and loyalty. At the same time the youth can often bring different skills and fresh enthusiasm to a company. The challenge is to retain older workers while creating a dynamic environment for their younger counterparts.

But how do you go about doing this? The key as ever lies in understanding how managing the ageing workforce across the globe will need to be handled to meet the demographic challenges of each region. For example, countries in Asia can be split into those with a large ageing and small younger population (inverted pyramid), like China and Japan, and those with a smaller ageing and larger younger population (pyramid) like Indonesia, Cambodia. On one hand this may mean that there will be an ample supply of older workers, combined with a smaller number of younger ones who may feel they need a more dynamic environment to find career satisfaction. This can result in companies needing to “buy talent”. This is similar to the UK, where we expect a significant drop in graduate employment over the next ten years.

The flip side in Asia is that, there may be an influx of young talent which means that there is an ever more limited amount of ageing talent with experience to draw on. While young employees may bring innovation and new dynamics, an older generation could have worked in a significantly different environment with non- transferable skills or may have a valuable skill set and often hold relationships with stakeholders that would be hard to retain and foster without their presence. This obviously makes for complex talent management.

At Futurestep, we find that many global companies are investing in strategies to understand the potential competency gaps that their organisations may experience both today and in the years to come, especially with regards to projects they don’t know about today and technologies that may not exist at present. At the end of the day the first step to building a workforce with high levels of learning agility and flexibility lies within HR professionals’ ability to understand the region’s demographic challenges and work out how to put together an adaptive workforce.

The second key element is around the need to constantly gain an understanding of sophisticated talent management and talent acquisition strategies available. HR departments will increasingly need to review policies and practices related to recruitment, retention and development to ensure that their organisation caters for both the needs of young and old workers. They will also have to put into place strategies for managing an ageing workforce –while ensuring that these same polices will continue to attract and retain the best young talent.

The third and arguably most important thing that HR departments have to realise is that it’s all about harnessing the potential of the workforce as a whole. HR managers have to look at job functions globally and not just locally. They will have to identify talent within the organisation on a global platform and clearly define how they would be able to move talent across their regions as and when needed to fulfil the criteria of specific roles.

Managing a globally ageing workforce and balancing this out with recruiting new talent is a much more complex topic than we can cover in just a few paragraphs. What we do know is that the decades ahead will be shaped by a workforce that is ageing and by people working longer. This will require careful HR and recruitment management, and a dynamic shift of talent to fulfil the needs of an organisation.

If you’re keen to learn more or if you need help with this situation within your work environment we suggest you get in touch with us.

James Mendes
Managing Director, Asia


Rachael Pogson
Managing Director, Southeast Asia

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