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Being an effective manager Learning resource


Challenges and issues

Managing an ageing workforce

Managers and supervisors in Disability Business Services should be aware of the implications of ageing on supported employees. In addition to the 'normal' health issues associated with ageing, such as a reduced hearing, vision acuity, and physical capacity for lifting and fast movement, many supported employees have degenerative health conditions. Managers and supervisors should ensure that regular reviews of work requirements, equipment and training and development needs take into account the changing health needs of supported employees as they age.

There are a number of other issues that managers and supervisors must consider when working with an ageing workforce.They include:

There is legislation that organisations must comply with that relates to an ageing workforce such as equal employment opportunity, occupational health and safety, disability and employment legislation.

Case study: Moving on

Movers was a Disability Business Service specialising in packing for house and business removals. The business had been operating for 25 years in a large regional town and had a good reputation for its ability to respond to requests within 24 hours.

There were 27 employees at Movers including a management team of three, four supervisors and twenty supported employees. The service had a low staff turnover. Only rarely did someone leave. The supported employees were mainly in their 30s and 40s with three in their 50s. At least four staff members would be retiring in the next few years. One supported employee was having more difficulty each year moving around and a number of the employees had health problems that were degenerative.

The management team decided that Movers needed to develop a succession plan and commence a retirement planning program for all employees. It also decided to review its policies and procedures relating to employment, training and development, and family leave arrangements.

In your workplace

1. What are the management issues relating to an ageing workforce in your workplace?

2. What legislation is your workplace required to comply with that relates to an ageing workforce? How does it affect your job as a manager or supervisor?

Key learnings

Regular review of work requirements, equipment, and training and development needs take into account the changing health needs of supported employees as they age.

Ensuring ethical behaviour

Ethical behaviour in the workplace refers to actions that are socially responsible and are in line with the Disability Business Service's standards. In some instances workplace culture is used as a justification for unethical behaviour, however, common practice or 'everybody does it', isn't a justification for unethical behaviour.

Organisations have policies and procedures in place, such as a code of conduct that sets out the required standards of workplace behaviour. When a decision is required involving a conflict about ethical behaviours in the workplace, it is best to seek advice from appropriate sources.

The range of unethical behaviour is broad. Examples of unethical behaviour include taking stationery items such as pens, using work time to look up personal information on the Internet, falsifying business records, harassment of employees and favouritism.

Each manager and supervisor brings an individual set of values and beliefs to the workplace and each has a responsibility to ensure that high standards of personal conduct are applied in the workplace. Organisations have a responsibility for managing unethical behaviour in the workplace that is often guided by policies and procedures that articulate acceptable behaviours and processes for dealing with unethical behaviour. Examples of these are equal employment opportunity policy statements and organisational property use and borrowing guidelines.

Case study: All sides of the story

Sandy Rankin, the CEO of AbilityAll, a large metropolitan Disability Business Service that provided services in shrink wrapping, blister packaging, and plastic bagging, was feeling overwhelmed. He was beginning to wonder if he had made the right choice by moving to AbilityAll.

One of the first problems he had encountered concerned Joan Peters, a supervisor, who had been with AbilityAll for seven years, and Rik Osanne, also a supervisor at AbilityAll, who had joined about six months earlier. Joan and Rik had formed a good working relationship. As Sandy recalled, one Monday morning Rik had come to Joan and told her that he had borrowed the work trailer over the weekend without getting it approved first.

Joan had told Rik that she had chosen to ignore the previous times he had taken the trailer but she wasn't going to ignore it this time. She thought he 'was abusing the system'. Joan had told Sandy that Rik borrowed the trailer without getting approval first.

Another issue involved a romantic relationship that had developed between an older supported employee and a newly recruited teenager, also a supported employee. The relationship had become a concern to a numbers of supervisors who had recently been seeking Sandy's intervention to stop the relationship. Sandy was currently thinking through the ethics of the issue.

In your workplace

1. Are there issues regarding unethical behaviour or practices in your workplace? If so, what are they and what recommendations would you make to address them?

2. Who would you talk to about addressing these issues?

Key learnings

Ethical behaviour involves more than ensuring legal responsibilities are met. Managers and supervisors have a responsibility to behave in an ethical manner at all times. They also need to assist supported employees to understand what is meant by ethical behaviour and how it is practised in the workplace.

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