What happens when you combine two very timely topics with a group keenly interested in sharing experiences, practices and thoughts that might help others find success, avoid pitfalls and perhaps strategize for future opportunities? Well, that becomes a very dynamic networking event and it's exactly what transpired at Chapman's Ice Cream in Markdale earlier this month with Members and Guests of the EMC Owen Sound and Regional Consortium!
Human Resources & Health and Safety Networking Event - Aging Workforce, Duty to Accommodate, Retirement and Severance:
Our session with those with an interest in Human Resources and Health and Safety focused on the Aging Workforce, Duty to Accommodate, Retirement and Severance. Definitely a topic that is becoming more and more paramount as businesses consider their current employee needs and future requirements five or ten years hence. Reports show that the peak of our aging baby boomer population will be attained around 2021 - a mere 6-7 years away - and as such companies are making proactive strides strategizing how to best manage their workforces in preparation. Preparation for mass retirements, preparation for those who wish to remain in the workforce, preparation for new hires and skill development, preparation for dealing with a multigenerational workforce, etc. etc. Recognition of the importance of action within our own group of participants was immediately noticed when a roundtable show of hands identified a majority (60-70%) of our workforces were 45 years of age and over.
Statistics Canada (2011) states that "Nearly one person in four in the labour force projected to be 55 or more: The aging of the baby boomers, which is largely behind the projected decline in the overall participation rate, has had a major impact on the aging of the labour force. Between 2001 and 2009, the proportion of people in the labour force aged 55 and over rose from 10% to 17%, an increase of 7 percentage points in nine years. The first baby boomers reached the age of 55 in 2001. This increase is projected to continue from 2010 to 2021, when the succeeding cohorts of baby boomers in turn reach 55. By 2021, according to three of the five scenarios, nearly one person in four in the labour force (roughly 24%) could be 55 years of age or over, the highest proportion on record."
From: Projected trends to 2031 for the Canadian labour force. Statistics Canada, 2011
As mentioned above, there is not only the consideration of individuals leaving the workforce to manage, but companies need to bear in mind and prepare for the number of older people interested in continuing work full-time, as well as those looking at part-time or other flexible work arrangements which is increasing too.
Keeping the Statistics Canada reporting in mind together with the changing dynamics of the labour pool, together we discussed what might lay ahead as we edge closer to the projected peak of our aging population. In no short order, our group recognized the need to embrace, adapt and prepare for change. A few of our discussion questions and group answers follow below - perhaps you might consider how they apply to your organization and what do you have or could have in place to help mitigate any future difficulties in retention and recruitment practices:
1. How are you approaching/handling the issues involved with an aging workforce in your workplace?
In general most are starting preparations and looking down the telescope to see what might be coming and how it could possibly impact their organization. Through this process, companies are realizing that there may be gaps they have not considered so relevant before, but recognize are definitely necessary now (ie. PDA development).
Those who are well along the path in this regard have actively engaged in communicating one on one with candidates approaching retirement what to expect when they reach 65, others have or are in the midst of developing strategies to deal with chronic illness, building health and wellness programs that address age related issues, some have mentoring programs established to help transitioning of skill sets, knowledge, experience, etc.
2. What challenges (if any) are you experiencing?
* What to do when you are in a cost cutting mode - with no rehires
* Starting on succession plan development
* Skill set transition
* Dealing with changing skill sets as a result of technology
* Maintaining equality and the right to work with older staff
* Opening the door and generating communication standpoint between younger and older staff
* Developing employee incentives for early retirement
3. How do you approach the idea of retirement with your aging workers?
* Old Age Security awareness through written media and suggested opportunities to consider
* Introduction of modified work/mentoring opportunities
One company shared their best practices when it comes to addressing the retirement issue with an employee. Three months before they turn 65, a letter is sent to bring awareness of what they can expect when they turn 65 (ie. tax benefits change, benefit plan ends, etc.) Following that, one month before that date another reminder letter is sent laying out some options and providing good lead time to make decisions.
There was also considerable discussion around WSIB and insurance responsibilities - with more questions raised then answers.
4. What do you have in place to support the transition to retirement?
* Introduction of modified work force/mentoring opportunities
5. For those who do not wish to retire, what do you do if their work needs to be modified in order for them to perform the necessary functions?
This was an interesting discussion and we chatted about the necessity of up to date and accurate PDA's and Job Descriptions for all positions within a company. We also discussed Job Performance Reviews, safety considerations, development of wellness programs, and involvement of the medical profession. One of the companies present shared their progress on a new Chronic Illness Management Strategy that they were beginning to develop to encourage employees to be more active, eat right and to take care of themselves. A discussion point that came out of this particular topic dealt with the importance of creating relationships - with the employees, with physio, with medical representatives, etc. and that communication would help organizations be much more successful in helping manage their senior workers.
A variety of resources that might be helpful were shared - one in particular to mention has a wealth of information and is worth checking out:
"Safe and Healthy: A Guide to Managing an Aging Workforce", Government of Alberta, Human Resources and Employment
In here, you will find a great chart on "Responding to Physical Changes" that outlines how our bodies change with age and how those changes impact our ability to work. This chart goes further to list what employers and workers need to do as well and covers off the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory systems, hearing, vision and mental and motor processes. (Pages 11-15)
Participants were asked to consider what age brings to the job from a positive perspective and we were able to list many different attributes - and a listing from the Guide above encompassed our thoughts and so many more:
* A strong work ethic
* A proven performance record
* Knowledge and skills
* A sense of responsibility and duty to the job
* Loyalty and commitment to the organization
* Less likelihood of switching jobs
* An ability to manage their time
* A co-operative and team-oriented attitude
* Productivity and efficiency
* An ability to work with different people
* Access to many community contacts (especially important in sales and marketing)
* Realistic understanding of their abilities and shortcomings
* A willingness to work flexible schedules (may be willing to take vacations during off-seasons, such as winter,
and work during traditional vacation periods, such as summer)
* Life and work experience
* Lower absenteeism
* Ability to be retrained
* An ability to serve as role models and mentors
From: The Benefits of Age, "Safe and Healthy: A Guide to Managing an Aging Workforce", Government of Alberta, Human Resources and Employment, Page 9
We also looked other related matters such as leveraging younger people to fill in the gaps as people retire - including collaborating with colleges and universities, accessing apprenticeship programs, utilizing youth employment, wellness in the workplace, dealing with multigenerational issues and training for workforce planning.
This was a great session fraught with lots of discussion around best practices followed by policy and procedure sharing between group Members.
It's a topic that must continue to be addressed and it's vital to start putting thought into planning and company-wide process development as soon as possible.
Continuous Improvement Networking Event - Accountability & Consequences re Policies & Procedures:
Accountability at work is important to a business's success as a whole. Every employee, no matter what level of seniority is equally responsible for aiding in the success of the company. In order to achieve the goals of the organization, long and short term, it is important that all people within the business work together and share accountability to achieve these and in so doing enabling the company to be more productive and efficient.
Monitoring your employees' progress will help motivate them to be more productive and accountable. In turn, it is equally important to share progress reports with them so they may learn what areas need more attention and what areas they are excelling in.
The consequences of not adhering to set processes can have a very negative impact on the organization particularly from a culture standpoint. Without accountability, a company may face product and quality issues, efficiency dilemma's, customer complaints and recalls may increase, trust and respect by employees, customers and suppliers - internally and externally - begins to erode and undermines the true goals of the company. There may be little or no engagement that could otherwise influence business growth, innovative ideas or process efficiencies - all impeding positive progress. So, having said that, having accountability in the workplace is essential for a company to remain healthy and vibrant in today's competitive marketplace.
The ITC Institute (www.ITCinstitute.com) published a wonderful article on "The State of Accountability" which although IT related transcribes well for any industry and speaks to what "accountability" is by their definition and why it is important. This article also goes on to cite that many organizations and leaders are challenged in this regard.
Our group discussed several aspects of this subject beginning with challenges and subsequent actions to solve them. We also spoke of how to encourage accountability in our employees whether through effective policy and procedure development, mentoring, job performance reviews, etc. A few of our discussion points are set out below - again, an opportunity to consider how accountability is managed in your organization and how might you answer these same questions:
1. What are some issues/challenges have you had/do you have regarding accountability with your employees and how have you/are you dealing with them?
* Expectations regarding raw materials, yields, paperwork
* Keeping consistency between shifts
* Developing consistency across the plant
2. Have you had successful "interventions" with employees regarding accountability? What were the issues and how did you solve them?
* Disciplinary procedures
* Setting productivity goals
* Incentive plans
3. What steps do you follow when correcting accountability issues?
* Addressing serious shortcomings
* Cannot control without measuring
* Need performance evaluation systems
* On the job training
* Performance Reviews (once per year - should not be a surprise/where they need to improve and what expectations are)
Best practices suggested from the CRA referenced in the ITC Institute summary referenced above added to our discussion on this particular question - and noted that the following four criteria need to be considered as we set to establish paths of clear accountability and we need to ensure that:
1. Expectations are clear
2. Expectations are perceived to be credible and reasonable
3. Positive consequences follow compliance
4. Negative consequences follow non-compliance
Another great resource to check out is the "Best Practice Guide: Managing Underperformance 09", Fair Work Ombudsman, Australian Government - in here you will find an excellent chart of "Common Performance Issues" citing possible causes and actions to consider together with a checklist for management of underperformers.
This was quite an interesting subject and the whole concept of accountability, expectations and productivity goals also opened up other doors of thought on needs, experiences and suggestions such as:
* Measuring success on a project by project basis
* Take time to do it right - but don't waste time
* Time line requirements - consequences - measurements and accountability
* Open door policy
* Deal on a daily basis with problems as they come up
* Turnaround interview
* Recognizing the importance of benchmarks
* Measure expectations and take away excuses
* Aging Workforce
It truly was a great day of learning and sharing between everyone in attendance. Policies and procedures were traded and connections made for ongoing conversations!
Special thanks to our Host Chapman's Ice Cream and to all of the participants who so generously shared their thoughts and experiences!
Have a great week!
Bren de Leeuw, Sr. Community Development and Food, Beverage and Bio Sector Program Initiative Manager
Excellence In Manufacturing Consortium - bdeleeuw .org - 519-372-6009