The looming impacts of an ageing workforce, an ageing population and the changing workforce demographics have been on the radar of the Australian healthcare sector for some time now. Over the next 10-20 years, there is the potential to lose as much as 20% of the workforce in a given area, mainly due to retirement eligibility. Below is an extract from my upcoming keynote address at the Workforce Planning for Healthcare 2016, conference in December, sharing my own views on this.

Drivers for change

The most common driver for change across both the aged care and health care sectors is the bubble of the ageing workforce. Over the next 15-20 years we have a high percentage of people that will be eligible for retirement and not necessarily the same level of people coming through the training pathways to support the replacement of those workers.

At present, there is a supply and demand issue where there are fewer jobs available in the market and an oversupply of skills. But the reality is, in fifteen years’ time, this is going to change drastically. The danger is the current oversupply will cause fewer people seeing roles in health are a set career and this has the ability to influence those graduating or coming out of the training programs to support these areas.

The next big trend is the fact we have four generations in the workforce and they all have very different motivators and generational expectations. For example, baby-boomers who are predominately loyalists were happy to work their way up through an organisation. Gen X, on the other hand, who were the early pioneers of the work-life balance, are often now in Senior Management positions managing a cross-generational workforce of baby-boomers or fellow Gen X, Y or Z colleagues.

But it is the millennials that are really going to change the way we need to approach workforce planning – especially when it comes to recruitment and retention. Millennials are from an era where information flow should be immediate and direct and they may not consider hierarchy at all to be an effective way to engage or manage.

Millennials are hard workers, but they don’t necessarily have the same loyalty association as other generations. For example, kids in high school now will probably have anywhere of up to 14 to 16 jobs before they are 38 – and the average tenure of employment could be as low as 12 to 18 months.

As a result, the workforce of the future could shift to independent contracting style of employment to cater for these generational changes and expectations. That is a real issue for health, where the aim is to build continuity and familiarity. Induction and orientation could become quite challenging when there is a higher level of turnover in the workforce.

Is the future of finding a workforce, let alone the right workforce, better outsourced to those meddling kids and their dumb dog?

In the words of Shaggy: “Future Workforce, where are you?”

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