Tools to Move Your Company Forward

By Diana Schwerha

Work force demographic changes mean organizations must pay more attention to older employees

Unless you’ve been living in a bubble, you’ve no doubt heard about the coming crisis with older workers in the work force. Yes, some consider the baby boomers a sort of tsunami that is going to reach shore in 2011 when the oldest of the boomers start to turn 65 years old. Others recently have toned down the rhetoric as the economic situation has created gaps in people’s readiness for retirement. In any case, it’s on people’s minds. A recent search on Google for “older workers” listed more than a million entries. Entire conferences have been held on the subject, and each year conferences from a variety of disciplines hold sessions devoted to the topic.

Many excellent articles have been written during the last 10 years on normative aging and how those changes affect a persons ability to perform work. Information on vision, hearing, strength and endurance, balance, and cognitive processing changes, among others, combined with ways to mediate them, have been put forth in the academic and professional literature. These articles have been published for a general audience as well as specific industries. Few, however, have really pushed the paradigm shifts that are necessary in order to gain the most from our experienced, as well as our less experienced, work force. As opposed to 10 years ago, older workers are not the minority, and they should not be treated as such. Instead, companies should embrace the gains that can be made for everyone when the needs of the older work force are met.

So what does this mean for you (perhaps personally), your company, and your role at work? Industrial engineers find themselves in a variety of roles. You may be in charge of process improvement, safety, ergonomics, inventory, databases or quality control. Most industrial engineers want to know how they can keep their entire work force productive and safe while capitalizing on everyone’s expertise and keeping costs in control. They want to retain their best employees and attract new talent. This article suggests ways in which you can introduce methods to reach your productivity, safety and work force development goals. It will outline what aging and ergonomics mean in different industries, how you can adopt “product and process” improvements, and tools that are available to help you accomplish your goals.

The skinny on older worker demographics

What does the term “baby boomers” mean to you: (A) A commercial on TV, (B) several well-known politicians, (C) the generation that pushed all limits, or (D) a large cohort of people moving through the work force? Click here to read more about Tools to Move Your Company Forward.

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