Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Vital to make workplaces age friendly

There is an article in the FT about the need for workers in Germany to remain in the workforce for longer and how companies are responding to make this possible. If you have a FT subscription you can read the article here. 

Just so you understand the magnitude of the challenge, Daimler expects that in 10 years half of its staff will be over the age of 50.

Germany is an 'old' country - 21% of its population is over the age of 65 - only Japan has a higher number,

Immigration has helped reduced the country's skills shortages but it persists in some sectors – particularly in machine building and healthcare and at small and medium-sized companies in rural areas - there is a real problem.

Germany has made big strides in recent years at retaining older workers in the labour force. At 63% it has Europe's highest employment rate among 55-64 year olds other than Sweden. The proportion of working 60-65 year olds almost doubled between 2002 and 2012.

Fraport, the Frankfurt airport operator, is a good example of what companies are having to maintain their skill base. It expects between 25-35% of professional and skilled technical employees to leave the company for age-reasons by 2025.

Many airport jobs involve lifting and carrying (i.e. loading baggage on to planes) so the company is closely monitoring employee health as its workforce ages. Solutions can be as simple as rotating employees around different functions so they are not always working to unload goods in the belly of the plane. Alternatively, it might involve employing new technology (e.g. vacuum lifting devices). Fraport has also introduced a mobile fitness bus, which ground staff can visit easily during their breaks.

Our experience is that most companies haven't begun to consider the implications of making their workplaces 'age friendly'. The first thing that needs to be done is to conduct a rigorous audit of the 'worker journey' to ensure that all of the places they interact with the company are as supportive to ageing bodies, senses and minds.

If anybody wants to know how this is done then get in contact. Dick Stroud

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