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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Singapore, Mailbox

Age no barrier to working in knowledge economy

The Straits Times | Sunday, May 11, 2014

I support the proposal to extend the re-employment age of older workers from 65 to 67 ("Re-employment age will be raised eventually: PM"; last Friday).

One of the most important lessons I learnt in my years as a chief executive is that we should not judge an employee's performance based solely on his age.

It is folly for any company to deny employment to older workers if they can still contribute, given the labour crunch and a workforce that, while ageing rapidly, is much more educated and trained than any generation before.

The retirees over the next two decades will be post-war baby boomers, many of whom are professionals, managers, executives and technicians. They often possess deep institutional knowledge of their organisation, with an extensive grasp of the products, systems and processes in place. They have also established valuable client relationships over the years.

For this group of employees, the problem is not so much their job skills suddenly becoming redundant, or that they cannot physically cope with the job. The real challenge lies in ensuring that their social communication skills remain relevant in a modern digitised society.

Increasingly, the ability and willingness to collaborate with people are important.

The technology boom that happened in the last decade has transformed the way we work. Many older office workers are finding it hard to catch up with the fast-evolving mainstream social media and mobile technologies such as cloud computing.

They should take more initiative in self-development to ensure they stay relevant to the needs of the company. They should have the desire to learn what their younger colleagues know, such as social media lingo, to avoid being ostracised from workgroups and business networks.

In short, they need to know what people are talking about and how to talk with them.

In essence, age is no barrier to a longer productive life in our knowledge economy.

Letter by Edmund Lam (Dr)

This article was published on May 9 in The Straits Times.

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