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Organisations to change as Boomers work longer

By Malcolm King - posted Tuesday, 4 October 2011


In a world of change, of demanding KPI's, share price slides and staff turnover, it's a struggle to find good news. Here's some.

In the next forty years Australia's organisations – both great and small – will no longer reject younger workers because they have 'no experience'.

Nor will older workers in there 50s and 60s be forced to retire or get knocked back for jobs because they were 'too qualified' or 'might have trouble with the IT'.

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The economy is hungry for skilled workers and it won't care if they are 27 or 67 years of age, as long as they are candidates of merit and who can do the job.

A recent survey of 400 businesses conducted by the Australian Industry Group and Deloitte found that more than a quarter of companies could not find workers to fill vacant positions, and this is predicted to get worse.

The number of working age people to support each retiree is expected to fall from five people today, to 2.7 people by 2049-50. Today, around one quarter of total Government spending is directed to health, age-related pensions and aged care. This will rise to about half by 2049-50. The antidote is the elimination of age prejudice and implementing training and retaining older staff.

While population ageing poses some threats, it also offers extraordinary opportunities too. Business critics often talk about creating a smart company – an organic corporation committed to life-long learning that values organisation culture and corporate memory.

With a shrinking labour force through to retirements and lesser members (comparatively) of younger generations entering the workforce, holding on to experienced staff will become the strategic aim of HR.

The future of modern organisations will be heterogeneous. They will have a 'Christmas table mix' of young, well-educated people working with people their parents and grandparents age.

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This is a great opportunity to create a new kind of organisation, one that replicates learning, participation and production across the life cycle.

But will older people put up their hands to work longer? Some with healthy savings will wave the world of work goodbye. But consider this: a retiree who owns their own abode will need about $40,000 per annum to live comfortably. To earn that they will need principal savings of about $400,000 or more.

Professor Hal Kendig at the University of Sydney found that of 1000 boomers surveyed, 40 percent were 'hard hit' by the GFC and economic roller coaster of the last 25 years. 40 percent of women and 32 percent of men planned to postpone their retirement.

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About the Author

Malcolm King works in generational workforce change. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University. He also runs a professional writing business called Republic.

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