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Dealing with an ageing workforce: current and future implications

John Dumay (School of Business, University of Sydney, Darlington, Australia)
Jim Rooney (School of Business, University of Sydney, Darlington, Australia)

Journal of Human Resource Costing & Accounting

ISSN: 1401-338X

Article publication date: 6 September 2011

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the reason for, and outcomes of, the New South Wales Land and Property Authority's (Lands) Vision 2013 plan designed to deal with a perceived impending human capital crisis in light of a rapidly ageing workforce. The research questions examined are “Did the perceived crisis eventuate?” and “What was the impact of implementing the plan to combat the threat of an ageing workforce?”

Design/methodology/approach

Using a case study approach, the paper incorporates semi‐structured interviews, planning papers and annual reports to critically examine the impact of implementing the Vision 2013 plan. Lands was chosen because in 2005 the ageing workforce issue motivated Lands to investigate how it would successfully manage organisational knowledge then and into the future. With the purpose of promoting discussion and critical reflection, we examine how Lands addressed the perceived crisis and the impact it had on the management of knowledge and human capital.

Findings

The ageing workforce crisis appears not to have been as significant as anticipated because of the combination of improved processes and training of new employees, allowing for knowledge transfer, making some old knowledge redundant and creating new knowledge. However, a gap exists between the new processes and tacit knowledge that can only be filled through experience. While the ageing workforce crisis seems to have abated, a new crisis of retention looms on the horizon.

Research limitations/implications

The paper provides a longitudinal example of how a particular employer dealt with the threat of knowledge loss due to the retirement of older workers. It demonstrates that the threat cannot only be thwarted but can also help drive system and process improvements. The lessons learned, the authors argue, can be generalised to the public and private sector; however, they must be tempered within specific local, national and international contexts.

Originality/value

The paper provides a longitudinal observation of a public sector government business enterprise's implementation of a plan to address the issue of an ageing workforce. Many contemporary organisations face this issue so the results of the case study will be of value to those facing similar challenges.

Keywords

Citation

Dumay, J. and Rooney, J. (2011), "Dealing with an ageing workforce: current and future implications", Journal of Human Resource Costing & Accounting, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 174-195. https://doi.org/10.1108/14013381111178578

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited