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Maybank Wong Keng Fye

‘They ain’t old; they’re my colleagues’

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Wong Keng Fye, head of human resources at Maybank, highlights why it is important to harness the collective wisdom of older workers.

What do you do when you are stumped for a word or need to find out more on a particular topic?

You hit Google of course – the world’s best search engine since the internet.

Take it to a corporate setting – what do you do when you want to find out what happened to a specific product launch that took place more than five years ago; why certain policies were crafted and designed; or how a certain customer relationship developed?

There isn’t a company “Google” search engine. Typically, you would trawl through old documents, files, archived information; all of which probably allow you to assemble a rough story board.

But the best data repository rests with people – the older staff in your company who have been with the organisation for the past 20, 30, 40 or more years.

There has been much talk and debate about the rehiring of older workers, i.e. those who have reached the official retirement age.

Are companies who are doing so treating it as a favour to the retirees or should they view rehiring as a norm?

Forward-thinking organisations often believe that people are their greatest assets, cliché as it may seem to many. They recognise that older workers are a force to be reckoned with, especially with their wealth of experience and critically important institutional memories.

So how can an organisation best tap into the veritable information troves and harness the collective wisdom?

Sure, the younger generation is ahead of these Baby Boomers in the areas of being technology savvy, speed at picking up new things and perhaps their hunger and drive for success. But their senior colleagues bring with them stability, commitment, reliability and a strong sense of loyalty and identity.

Senior colleagues bring with them stability, commitment, reliability and a strong sense of loyalty and identity.

Most older workers have gone through a lot. Many of them may still be in their first or second jobs, staying with the same employer for about two to four decades. It is with a certain sense of contentment and appreciation that they have chosen to stay on.

Older workers believe that if you do your best for your employer, your employer will recognise your achievements and reward you for it. In turn, you continue to grow within the company. This is a positive cycle.

As Singapore continues to compete in the global marketplace, we need to ensure that our workforce remains competitive despite a greying population.

One way to achieve this is to tap on the growing pool of experienced and skilled mature employees. At Maybank, we walk the talk by employing more than 250 staff who are over 50 and some 50 staff, aged 62 and above.

Older workers believe that if you do your best for your employer, your employer will recognise your achievements and reward you for it. In turn, you continue to grow within the company. This is a positive cycle.

Each senior colleague has his or her own special story. For example, there is Mr Lee. He was made our senior banker in Maybank’s global banking division when he reached the retirement age of 62. His role is to deepen the relationships with customers, to groom the younger bankers and to teach and nurture them.

Mr Lee’s role is very much like an emeritus mentor, an ambassador for the bank. He sees the customers, develops paths to certain markets and paves the way for businesses to build up and flow in. He can do this because he has spent more than 35 years – the larger part of his career – in corporate and commercial business.

He knows the ground, the way to do business, customer behaviours and how to sustain and enhance relationships with customers.

ALSO READ: 72% of older professionals want to continue working

Then there is Salmah, our compliance manager. Salmah has just moved into her new role for a couple of months. She was our service manager in our Maybank Tower branch for more than 10 years.

The main branch has always been one of the toughest branches to manage in terms of size, complexity of transactions, profile of customers, and simply the pressure of expectations of being the flagship branch. She helmed the spot admirably for more than 10 years, but now in her late 50s, she wanted to explore doing something different.

We would have lost a solid and reliable performer if we had not paid attention to her needs. Our staff have different needs and motivations as they go through the different life stages and a good employer should be sensitive to that.

After all, a happy employee is a productive employee and that translates into better business results. That has always been Maybank’s people credo.

Our staff have different needs and motivations as they go through the different life stages and a good employer should be sensitive to that.

So we moved Salmah from the front to the back office, where we know she can continue to contribute with renewed motivation and passion. With her incredible wealth of experience in her role as service manager, she is now able to put it to good use in her new KYC (know your customers) portfolio.

Her colleagues will benefit greatly as she listens, teaches and helps lead the teams.

Age is, but a number and the Mr Lees, and Salmahs of our world are not old. They are our colleagues – colleagues who are a walking encyclopedia of corporate history and knowledge and valuable reservoirs of wisdom to be tapped into.

They are the proverbial pioneer generation who have helped build the company and to this day, continue to do so.

It is always about finding a win-win situation, redesigning jobs, adapting workplace practices and encouraging older workers to upgrade skills throughout their careers to bring out the best in them.

Every company has these gems – we just need to polish them to allow them to shine through.

Image: Provided

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