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The silver bullet to hiring seniors: Job redesign
Jobs & Economy Articles

The silver bullet to hiring seniors: Job redesign

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From the typical regular motorbikes to the latest three-wheeled scooters, postman Abdul Lah Haris has used various types of vehicles to deliver mail.  

But changes to the mode of transport go beyond progressing with the times, it also makes the job easier for senior staff. For one, it can carry more mail – cutting down the number of trips back to the base to collect mail.

This enables Mr Abdul Lah, 65, to carry on working with ease. The postman of 44 years has no intentions of calling it a day.

“I’ve made many friends here and after work we can go for makan and kopi together. I like my work, I am healthy, and I hope to carry on working,” shared the SingPost employee.

At SingPost, it is not a rarity for older workers to work past their retirement age. In fact, about 10 per cent of its 3,600 staff in Singapore are older than 62.

This stems from the changes made to work processes as well as SingPost’s Retired Rehirees scheme, which has been in place since 1994. Last year, it rehired nearly 95 per cent of employees who reached retirement age.

“This scheme was designed to ensure the employability of our older team members. Our rehirees see it as a way to stay physically and mentally active, as well as maintain friendships with their long-time colleagues,” explained Ms Florence Chan, Chief Human Resources Officer at SingPost.

Ageless workplaces to suit seniors

Older folk are a crucial pool of workers who will add to Singapore’s workforce, which will shrink due to our ageing population.

The good news is more seniors are working past the retirement age. The labour force participation rate for residents aged 65 and above almost doubled in 10 years – from 14.8 per cent in 2007 to 25.8 per last year. Since 2012, employers have also been required by law to rehire eligible older workers when they reach retirement age.

To encourage more older people to work, companies should look at redesigning their jobs to make it easier for them, said Mr Sean Tan, a career consulting services leader at global consulting firm Mercer.  

“As our workforce ages and shrinks, we’ll have fewer people to do these jobs, so we’ve got to find ways to modify the jobs such that people can better cope with it. Job redesign is something that would bring a sustainable solution to some of these problems that we’re facing,” he noted.

Companies like SingPost introduced both work tools and policies to ensure that its senior employees find work more manageable. For instance, the three-wheeled scooter is not only safer to ride, but can carry heavier loads as well.

SingPost also introduced ezy-trolleys and electric pallets that would lighten the physical workload for its employees. Other initiatives include a flexible working hour scheme, so that older workers can work at a pace they are comfortable with. The terms of their employment will also remain the same as long as their job responsibilities remain unchanged.

Job redesign also benefits businesses

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While the focus remains on simplifying work processes for older employees, job redesign also helps businesses make work processes more efficient, cutting costs along the way and allowing them to reap better profits.

It is an incentive that gives businesses a good reason to embark on job redesign. “You cannot tell a businessman to do it for altruistic reasons. We’ve got to fashion an arrangement where it will translate into commercial value,” said Mr Tan.

At restaurant Lawry’s The Prime Rib Singapore, there are improvements in work processes because of its newly implemented workflow. The E-Menu Ordering System allows food orders and bills to be registered on iPads. This reduces errors and allows customers to be served promptly.

For its three older employees who are aged 60 and above, this system also enabled them to work at a less hectic pace, while increasing productivity at the same time.  

For Lawry’s, it is a win-win solution. “The process of the job redesigning is easy and cost-effective. This helps the business as we have seen an increase in employee performance and productivity,” said executive director Juan R. Jimenez.

“The technological advances help facilitate work, and at the same time make Lawry’s an easier and smarter place to work in.”

Step by step approach

How can companies take the first step in job redesign? The key is to start small and picking the right people to kick off the initiative, shared Mr Tan from Mercer.

“Select the most progressive older workers, who are more agile in coping with changes, to partake in the project. Find the ones who are most comfortable with technology, for example,” he said.

“At the same time, mix them with the younger people who have a more inclusive working style. It’s about finding those low-hanging fruits that’ll give you the highest likelihood of success,” he added.

Once success is achieved, it is also important to display this success for other companies to take heed of. Having enough success stories might persuade them to follow suit as well, he added.

“Make these success stories known to everyone. We need to create the conditions to enhance the likelihood of success, and then be able to talk about it in a way that is celebrated,” he explained.

On an individual level, success stories like Mr Abdul Lah will also motivate other seniors to continue working. “Most importantly, we continue to be valued for the work that we do, and not by our age,” he said.

“Many people of my age are healthy and can carry on working. Staying active is good for health and we can share our experiences with younger colleagues.”


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