Ergonomics done right.®
June 12th, 2012

Retirement Age: What it Means to Business

By Jennie Gober, AEP

Lately, it seems like the news has been nothing but concerns about job markets, national debts, and the global economic crisis.  A post by George Stroumboulopoulus comments on the recently-changed retirement ages in Canada and France.  Canada increased their retirement age to 67, while France lowered it to 60.  This news is sure to be another factor (positive or negative, depending on who you ask) in the performance of companies.

From an ergonomics perspective, what do these changes to the retirement age mean for businesses?  In Canada, it may result in the need to redesign workstations and tasks to ensure aging populations are capable of performing job tasks.  Does this mean that France, with its lowered retirement age, can just hire young, strong employees?  Of course not!  One of the issues with having your workforce retire sooner is that you lose engaged, skilled workers and have to fill those positions with younger, less-skilled workers.  Learning any new job takes time – over time, you learn the “right way” and the “wrong way” to do a job.  Time and time again, I hear “experienced” employees say how they perform a task now is very different from how they did it five or ten years ago.  That sentiment is generally followed by a statement like, “I tell these young kids that just because they can do it a certain way, doesn’t mean they should. They’ll feel it later in life.”

In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over 25% of injuries requiring days away from work occurred within the first year of employment, possibly a result of taking risks and shortcuts that an older employee has learned to avoid.  To ensure that both younger and older populations can perform the tasks, provide work environments where tasks can always be performed the “right way”.

What are some changes your company has made to address the aging workforce?  (Check out Josh Kerst’s recent interview with Inside E-Street for some good tips on designing workstations for aging workers.)