In reviewing the actual data for a mid- to large-sized food company with 750 claims per year and losses of $6.5 million, Spiers found the average cost-per-claim for an employee under 20 was $1,777, while for a worker aged 50-59, it was nearly 10 times that amount or $17,017. Meanwhile, investing in ergonomics can actually boost productivity.
3. Set up a task force and recruit employees. As an employer, you will soon find yourself, through workers compensation insurance, replacing hips and knees. Moreover, to the extent your hands-on workforce ages, productivity may suffer as physical attributes decline with age. To boost productivity, let your aging workforce volunteer to be part of a task force to make the workplace more conducive and safe for them. Obviously, you need to take volunteers and not just assume a “seasoned worker” is going to be interested in such a task force. The Age Discrimination Act, in some ways unfortunately, does not allow you to target these individuals, even if they want to be targeted.
4. Learn from our European counterparts. The aging issue is not new to the rest of the world. If anything, we are new to the game. Auto manufacturers Audi and BMW have learned to design the workplace around the aging workforce and are being rewarded with productivity gains. BMW analyzed their workforce in 2007 and found that the average age of their workers would go from 41-46 by 2017. They actually set up an experimental assembly line in Dingolfing, Germany which had features such as “hoists to spare aging backs, adjustable- height working benches, and wooden floors instead of rubber to help hips swivel during repetitive tasks.” What was the result? The older workers outperformed the younger workers.
At Audi, the company designed production around disability challenges creating flexible working practices. They stopped measuring individual accomplishment and measured contribution across the age bands of the workforce. The result: A 40% increase in productivity.
5. Offer flexible retirement alternatives and blend older and younger workers. Plan out “climb down the ladder” scenarios where folks who still have important contributions to make can continue to make them on their terms and in a way that educates the next generation. Successful companies in the era of longevity will be those that structure alternative retirement strategies, especially in their critical skill sets.