Tips on tapping older workers

Tips on tapping older workers

SINGAPORE - Bigger icons on ordering devices and less physical exertion on the job are some of the ways local businesses have been accommodating older workers, amid a tighter labour market.

These measures were shared at a panel discussion on Thursday by government and industry leaders on the question of how employing older workers affects productivity.

Companies can offset the slower influx of foreign labour by tapping the pool of older workers here, who bring experience and a strong work ethic, said Minister of State for Manpower Amy Khor.

Mr Wong Hong Kuan, chief executive of the Workforce Development Agency (WDA), urged companies to "pursue a strategy of being age-friendly", in light of Singapore's ageing population.

"You will have a competitive advantage [over] anyone that chooses to say no and only insists on having younger workers," he said.

The panel discussion was part of the inaugural 360 Productivity Singapore conference at the Regent Singapore, which continues on Friday. It was organised by the WDA and Human Capital Singapore and drew around 230 participants, mainly heads of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

In a wide-ranging keynote speech, Dr Khor said Singapore had made good progress in hiring older workers, with the employment rate of those aged 55 to 64 growing from 56.2 per cent in 2007 to 64 per cent last year, moving it towards the MOM's target of 65 per cent by 2015.

Several business leaders on the panel spoke about how they redesigned jobs and invested in technology to attract older workers and improve productivity.

Ms Anna Lim, executive director of The Soup Spoon, said the company broke jobs down into smaller tasks. For example, instead of having to speak good English, move fast, scoop soup, have good product knowledge and man the cashier, an older employee could simply scoop soup.

The company would later encourage him or her to go for more training in other roles. "We will slowly move them along the process and then they're able to take on more responsibilities," Ms Lim said.

Managing director of Citystate Group Leow Tze Wen said the company had invested in information technology such as iPads for order takers in their restaurants. "You don't have to remember a whole list of menu items because it's on the iPad in front of you," he said, "and it has nice big graphics and big buttons for people with arthritic fingers who can't press little ones."

The conference is the first event under the new 360 Productivity Framework launched on Thursday to help local companies innovate to become more productive.

Other activities in the series include four masterclasses per year with international speakers, as well as a bi-yearly award to recognise companies' efforts in raising productivity.

Nine senior management representatives from companies such as Sentosa Leisure Group, SATS and Science Arts, were also named Enterprise Training Support (ETS) envoys, who will promote the uptake of the ETS scheme, launched in April to provide funding for training and human resource development.

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