Talent Management: Implications on Role Design/Performance of an Older Workforce


Say, you have an operation that needs regular maintenance. The replacement parts you historically used were new manufacturer (original supplier) parts. Now this supplier goes out of business and you are faced with drawing upon the after market of refurbished, previously used, and old unused supply. How would you adjust your own operations now?

The parallel in TM is having to rely more and more upon older people to meet your talent needs. As your talent pool becomes older and older (on average and operationally wide) how should you begin to think about how your business operates.

BMW in Germany has had to deal with this issue in very concrete and honestly open ways. This was reported in the Vancouver Sun; 18 February, 2011; page B5 under the title: “New BMW factory design ‘relief’ for older workers. What specific adjustments have they had to make?

  • ergonomic workstations with extra back support and reduced reach to access tools and parts
  • better lighting
  • an easier production pace
  • relaxation rooms
  • healthy canteen

Is this altruism in action? No! It is reported that Germany has a systemic shortage of 400,000 skilled workers.

So, my fellow TM practitioners, what are you doing to understand and advise on regarding implications to your businesses (haven proportionally larger numbers of older workers)? Do you even know what needs to be understood?

I have been frustrated personally and professionally in this area for a couple of reasons:

  • the research is factory floor oriented – as opposed to knowledge work
  • the research is oriented to injury prevention – as opposed to sustaining and increasing role performance

I can help clients see the ramifications of failing to understand the loner term performance ramifications of an aging workforce. However, I can’t help them as much in where they can look for guidance on what to do, where to do and how to do.

It is easier to see how age impacts dexterity, flexibility, etc. and how these relate to more physically oriented roles. It is not as easy to see how this plays out when the decision making and thinking (analytic, conceptual, creative, etc.) oriented roles for the organization’s business model.

Remember, every business organization is designed around roles and implicit/explicit role performance attributes that in total support achievement of business goals. To be ignorant or dismissive of the implications of larger and larger proportions of these roles being filled with older and older people is an act of self induced blindness.

I know it is simplistic to assume just because you and I are old (and we fill decision making roles) we are less competent and capable. But, what if we are in roles that are undergoing “field of knowledge turns” every five years when ten years ago it was closer to seven? What if we are in roles that require speedier decisions with increased complexity due to more prevalent regulatory and “insistent” stakeholder expectations? How do we increase the performance of older and older people as our business demands necessitate it?

Has anyone come across some decent research in this area. I would love to hear about it. Our respective clients and stakeholders deserve to know we are getting on top of this.

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About 123stilllearning456

As a management consultant I am passionately interested in talent management and risk/uncertainty issues. In the area of talent management I propose that we seek strategies that look beyond the staffing/employee centric frames of reference. I have been frustrated at the "closing down on possibilities" by these more conventional staffing/employee centric approaches. I have been impressed where people have found systematic solutions to their talent management issues by going beyond the conventional approaches. In the area of risk and uncertainty, I am interested in making this topic relevant to more normal decision making situations. My conceptual foundation is to use the micro-economist's fixed/variable cost theme. I also think it is important to look at these issues for people through their emotional and psychological lens. As a premise I think risk and uncertainty only exist where there is a person who cares about possible events and its consequences. Hence, risk and uncertainty are social based concepts (no sentience, no risk and uncertainty). A major influence on my thinking in this area is Nassim Taleb of "Black Swan" fame. This BLOG provides me with an opportunity to express my thoughts on topics that interest me. As this is an online diary, content is more important to me than polish. I apologize if this distracts from readers' enjoyment and learning. Still I find this a useful way to live up to my namesake, learn more from others and hopefully provoke creative thoughts and ideas in others.
This entry was posted in Decison Making, Risk & Uncertainty, Talent Manangement. Bookmark the permalink.

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