Job redesign can provide what silvers need in order to be successful

This is the second instalment of a two-part series on preparing employees for the future of work. To read the first story, click here: Transforming and redesigning jobs: a ‘how-to’

The way we live and work is rapidly changing. Technology and its advancements impact the way we work, interact with each other, and how we go about day-to-day life. We have adapted, and organisations must do the same.


Mercer’s recently released Global Talent Trends Survey 2019 found that 43% of respondents are redesigning jobs as a way to prepare for the future of work.


In addition to these fast-paced changes, organisations need to consider the demographics and well-being of their employees. Singapore is experiencing a rapidly ageing population.


In fact, according to the UN’s World Population Ageing report,19.5% of Singapore’s population is 60 or over in 2017, which is the highest in Southeast Asia. The report also found that in 2050, 40.1% of Singapore’s population will be aged 60 or over.


According to a recent article from Reuters, the employment rate in Singapore of citizens and permanent residents aged 65 and older reached 27% last year. This is up from 16% in 2008.


Silver workers can be a treasure trove of experience and should be considered during a job redesign exercise. Coupled with the opportunity to live a longer and fulfilling life, workers are also employed for longer, and organisations need to consider how to design jobs that can accommodate a range of employee needs.


How can job redesign help?

By re-looking at what work should be done and how the work should be done, job redesign can help organisations prepare their workers to embrace new technology and future-proof their skills. This can improve productivity, workforce optimisation, and ideally employee well-being.


In fact, Mercer’s Global Talent Trends Survey 2019 found that executives believe the highest ROI on talent investment will come from redesigning jobs to better deliver value. However, only 43% of HR leaders are redesigning jobs to prepare for the future of work.


While workers can prepare to upgrade themselves, HR can proactively focus on employees and communicating during a job redesign. HR will need to understand workers’ sentiments and common concerns.


Employees might ask themselves:


  • Will I be removed from my job after the redesign?
  • Why does my job need to be redesigned? Am I not performing well?
  • Will my job be made more difficult?

These questions are especially relevant for silver workers, who may seek comfort in familiar processes.


Identify ways to improve productivity without sacrificing well-being

Job redesign as a concept is neither new nor revolutionary. All workers have experienced changes to their jobs. It could have been a new tool or software, or it could have been additional skillsets which they acquired knowingly or unknowingly.


For silver workers, HR leaders will need to consider these five criteria to ensure sustained gainful employment:


1. Provide continual support such as training, mentoring, and inclusive work practices and culture.

2. Ensure that work performance such as efficiency, effectiveness, and teamwork are fair for all workers.

3. Consider the demands of the job commensurate with the cognitive, sensory, and motor abilities of older works when redesigning jobs.

4. Create fulfilling jobs for workers at any age.

5. Instil confidence in employees by showing a willingness to continue employing older workers, to continue investing in age-inclusive workplace practices, and to support job redesign efforts.


Here is an example of job redesign at work:


Client – Singapore government agencies


Driver – The client hopes to revitalise the Singapore retail industry to attract more job seekers into the retail sector and to raise labour productivity so as to reduce reliance on manual manpower.


Challenge – The retail sector is in the midst of a massive transformation and there are tremendous opportunities for retailers to rethink their business delivery models. Coupled with the tightening of foreign worker quota and ageing workforce in the Singapore services sector, retailers are finding it increasingly difficult to attract and retain the right talent.


Specifically, it was challenging to attract sufficient employees to join retail operations and warehousing functions as these roles are deemed as less attractive. Also, the labour market does not produce sufficient e-commerce or data analysts to help fulfil new industry demands.


Solution – Mercer developed a job redesign toolkit from scratch and piloted these solutions with a group of seven pilot retailers across six sub-sectors. The framework includes a detailed guide to educate retailers on the process of conducting a job redesign review for their organisation supported by a series of success stories.


As the toolkit is aimed to help retailers of all sizes, Mercer also developed a set of pre-fitted solutions. These are pegged to a series of commonly experienced pain points aimed at alleviating operational pressures for the small and medium enterprises.

In partnership with the pilot retailers, Mercer collaborated closely with them to conduct a time-and-motion study to observe the impact of business operations, functional processes and tasks on individual job roles.

Thereafter, opportunities were identified so as to enhance processes — some manual processes were automated. Upskilling plans were also developed in consultation with these pilot companies and employees to restructure jobs in a way that could be more fulfilling and productive.


With the intention of proliferating job redesign as a concept, and to build a job redesign community within the retail sector, a series of train-the-trainer workshops were conducted and over a hundred retailers have been trained so far.


Result – The team successfully piloted job redesign solutions with the seven retailers in over a year and these solutions improved labour productivity for work processes by up to 50%.


Dispel the myths around silvers

While a job redesign exercise should be inclusive of all employees, silvers are a mostly untapped group that, in the right circumstances, can share their extensive knowledge and experience.


It’s a myth that silvers cost the business more, struggle with new technology, will take more time off due to health problems, are less innovative, and less productive than their younger counterparts. These are all biases. Thoughtful job redesign can provide what silvers need in order to be successful.


Especially with Singapore’s ageing population and workers who want to work longer, redesigning jobs to accommodate diverse skills and backgrounds is the responsibility of organisations who want to be successful in the future of work. Also, it is the responsibility of those committed to providing meaningful work and a culture that cares for the well-being of employees.

Sean Tan

Sean Tan is Workforce Transformation Leader for the Career Consulting Group at Mercer Singapore. He also leads the Talent Consulting Services business.

Sara Tiew

Sara Tiew is the Job Design and Public Sector Leader for the Career Consulting Group at Mercer Singapore.

This article first appeared in HRD Asia on 1 April. Click here to view the original article.



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