Silvia Schacht and Alexander Maedche
Enterprise Information Systems, University of Mannheim, L15 1-6, 68131 Mannheim, Germany
Keywords: Demographic Change, Changing workforce, Demographic-centric information systems.
Abstract: The demographic change influences almost all area of life such as health care, education, social systems and
productivity of companies. Therefore, appropriate adjustments to an aging society are necessary. To date,
many studies have been carried out weighting the advantages and disadvantages of the various alternatives.
The impact of an older workforce on productivity when using enterprise information systems was
considered only sparsely. The following paper presents our research intention to design and develop EIS
referring to the demographic change.
If I had my way, I wouldn’t have any engineers over
35 years old on my project.” This kind of statements
from managers reflects a growing concern about the
aging workforce due to the demographic change
taking place in each developed country. The reasons
for these concerns are mostly negative stereotypes
associated with elderly. For instance, it is often
argued that older employees are disillusioned,
discouraged and depressed, and have difficulties in
understanding and using new information
technologies and systems.
However, an older workforce may have some
opportunities like company-wide networks and
invaluable experience, which are rarely considered
by the management. Today, employees with such
skills are called knowledge workers. A workforce
that consists in a large part of knowledge workers
can form a significant competitive edge to
companies because of their experiences and
networking skills. This competitive advantage may
be lost when the knowledge worker is leaving the
organization by reason of a new job or even for
retirement. Thus, companies have to face the
challenges bred by the demographic change.
This paper provides an overview and a statement
about our research on the impact of the demographic
change and the needs to adapt and extend enterprise
information systems (EIS) for elderly. The paper is
structured as follows. Section 2 illustrates major
changes on companies’ environment in more detail.
The third section provides an overview on relevant
related work. Section 4 outlines the primary research
questions we identified. Finally, section 5 presents a
summary of our future research activities.
Since people are working together in organizations,
working conditions are constantly changing. Main
changes are the demographic change, the shift in
type of work and the globalization driven by new
technologies, information systems (IS) and Web 2.0
applications. The following section discusses these
changes in more detail.
2.1 Demographic Change in Workforce
The current demographic change resulting in an
aging population, presents a key challenge to
societies and companies in many countries around
the world. Between 2004 and 2050 the average age
in the EU will increase from 39 to 49 years, while
the number of people younger than 65 years will
continue to decline. Therefore, in 2050 an old age-
dependency ratio (number of people older than 65
divided by the number of people between 15 and 65)
of 53% is anticipated.
Fertility, mortality, and migration are identified
as the main drivers of the demographic change. In
2005, there was an average fertility rate of 1.5 births
per women in the European countries. For a full
Schacht S. and Mädche A. (2010).
In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems - Information Systems Analysis and Specification, pages
DOI: 10.5220/0002900504560459
replacement of generations, however, a fertility rate
of at least 2.1 is needed resulting in a shrinking
population. The reduced mortality in early life will
result in an increased life expectancy of about five
years by 2050. The population is not only shrinking,
but also aging. Migration is identified as the major
determinant slowing the trend of demographic
change. If the number of migrations will stay at the
same level, a further increase of the working age
population is expected until 2030. This growth will
reach its peak in 2030 and thenceforward the
number of working age people will decline
(European Commission, 2007).
2.2 Changing Type of Work
Since industrial revolution the type of work in
organizations is subject to many changes because of
the continuous development of technologies like
new machines, innovative ways of working and new
demands on the workforce skills. At that the
industrial revolution, work was characterized as
repetitive, supervised, administrative and process
driven (Erlich & Bichard, 2008). By excessive
dividing tasks into sub-problems, employees could
be encouraged to maximize the production speed by
specialization. But the limits of productivity gains
were achieved very quickly. Afterwards, the
development of organizational psychology led to the
realization of surplus value of an independent-
minded employee, who analyzes and solves
problems on their own initiative. These employees
developed to experts in various fields producing,
exchanging and using information to perform their
work. They evolved to knowledge workers, whose
type as well as their way of work are highly
impacted by emerging information and
communication technologies. Today the role and
ratio of knowledge workers in relation to the manual
workers becomes more and more vital for
organizations (Erlich & Bichard, 2008).
2.3 Globalization
Globalization is a phenomenon that has been taking
place more or less intensively since the age of
exploration in the 15
century. Often, globalization
is described as the integration of economies,
societies and cultures through a globe-spanning
network for trade, communication and execution of
work. The last wave of globalization, which has
been occurred in the 1990s, was affected by
technological developments of the WWW, workflow
software, supply chaining, etc. and enabled
individuals and groups to collaborate and compete
globally (Friedman, 2005).
Together with the adoption of new information
technologies (ITs), ISs developed from loosely
interfaced “islands of automation” to a competitive
edge of companies. This introduction of corporate
technologies represents the first wave of
productivity increase driven by technological
developments. The second wave of productivity
enhancement is promoted by new collaboration and
communication systems that enable the knowledge
sharing and cooperation between people all over the
world. Therefore, companies are increasingly aware
of their significance, today (Chui et al., 2009).
For a long time companies ignored the consequences
of the demographic change despite many statistics
from researchers and governmental institutions. But
assuming older employees were really less
productive, companies have to face the challenge of
an aging workforce, now.
There are many studies from several disciplines
like social psychology or medical science, which
examined how performance differs by age. In their
meta-analysis (Waldman & Avolio, 1986) figure
out, that there is only a slightly negative impact of
age on job performance. In fact, they reveal a
performance increment with increasing age.
However, other researchers like (Crépon et al.,
2002) or (Dalton & Thompson, 1971) discover an
inverted u-shaped curve of employees’ performance
in relation to their age. Furthermore, there is done
much work ((Goudswaard, & deNanteuil, 2000),
(Drucker & Berki, 1992)) in understanding the
impact of different requirements for working and
employment conditions on the productivity of
company’s workers. But, these studies were very
general referring to various types of employees
without considering their usage of ISs or new
With regard to new technologies and ISs, there
are several studies ((Aula & Käki, 2002), (Meyer et
al., 1997), (Stronge et al, 2006)), which analyze the
usage behavior of older people in dealing with
internet search engines. They figure out that older
people have more difficulties and need more time to
fulfill search tasks than younger participants. But the
participants of such studies are mostly older than 65
years and usually have little or no experience in
dealing with computers or software applications.
There is little work investigating the usage
behavior of older employees in using ISs.
(Chadwick-Dias et al., 2002) analyze the overall
performance of users based on various measurement
categories considering the different web experiences
of older employees. The researchers examined a
positive correlation between age and overall
performance. Often older people need more time and
are less successful in task completion than their
younger counterparts. Experience has also a positive
correlation on the user performance. The more
experienced the people are the higher is their
performance. However, the size of the text has no
significant effect on the performance of all
Due to an aging workforce companies are forced to
significant adjustments to their corporate culture and
personnel management. Not only strategic changes
such as support of the elderly through training or
new personnel and wage policies are necessary.
There also has to be conducted an adaptation on ISs
to the needs of the new “old workforce”.
We divided our research into two major streams:
Firstly, we start with an examination of the needs of
older workers in their working environment, where
we try to understand real-world demands of elderly
regarding ISs by running field studies including
interviews and observations. Secondly, we will
create design-driven solutions by customizing EISs
to the needs of elderly and developing next-
generation platforms to involve former employees
and retirees into the day-to-day business of
4.1 Understanding the Needs and the
Work Style of Elderly
There are many rumors and realities about older
workers in the literature. Often, phrases are
mentioned like “older employees are less
productive” or “older employees have difficulties to
understand and to learn the use of new ISs”. Because
of these statements, elderly are discriminated or
even not considered in engagements and the
allocation to trainings.
According to (Liu & Fidel, 2000) older
employees seem to have more difficulties than
younger ones when dealing with complex EIS. In a
study, the researchers evaluate the role of advanced
technological tools to share information between
employees by rolling out a knowledge sharing
system. Mostly older employees had difficulties in
using the system. Other researchers assume that the
usage of emerging technologies or ISs by elderly
highly depends on their “perceived usefulness”
(Morris & Venkatesh, 2000). Based on these
findings we want to conduct surveys to examine the
demands and behavior of elderly by using IS.
4.2 Designing Systems for Elderly
Today, ISs are used to fulfill an enormous amount of
tasks. They are growing, interlinked and mutually
integrated. Thus, they result in highly complex
applications, whose usage is difficult to learn – not
only for older employees. To increase the
productivity of especially older workers in the use of
EISs, we have identified following three approaches:
a) Elderly-focused EIS. Designing user-centered
interfaces of EISs is widely examined by many
researchers and programmers. Making EIS easier to
use for elderly can have positive side effects to each
employee of a company. In our research work, we
want to detect these effects and define correlations
between the several factors of influence.
b) Providing Knowledge Management Systems
for Elderly. Today, there is a variety of EIS which
support operational, tactical, and strategic processes.
One group of ISs gained importance due to the high
number of knowledge workers: knowledge sharing
applications. These applications facilitate the
externalization of employees’ knowledge and its
provision to the whole workforce of the company.
Often, this workforce is highly heterogeneous
consisting of traditional full-time employees,
temporaries or part-timers. Therefore, knowledge
and experience are as volatile as companies’
employees. With an aging workforce, the risk of
knowledge loss is increasing due to early retirement
and pension. In order to keep the knowledge its
boundaries, companies have to face the challenge of
knowledge capturing. Thus, new models of
knowledge sharing adapted to the needs of elderly,
are needed. In our ongoing research, we want to
analyze different established information exchange
systems used in companies and identify best
practices in knowledge sharing between employees
and retired people.
ICEIS 2010 - 12th International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
c) Developing New Kinds of Demographic-centric
ISs. The productivity of enterprises can be enhanced
not only by adapting existing ISs to the demographic
change and the needs of older employees. The
introduction of next-generation platforms focusing
on elderly, may also achieve a significant added
value to companies.
In companies, there is a wide variety of
activities, which fit to different types of employees.
Because retired persons possess valuable skills,
which may boost the competitiveness of the
company, they should also be involved in the
fulfillment of various tasks. Therefore, we plan to
implement a private platform for companies to
outsource tasks to its retirees according to the
principle of crowdsourcing. Anyone of the former
employees in the community who is interested in
completing a task for the company can register to
this platform and submit a solution. From all the
submitted solutions the company evaluates their
quality and rewards all of them or only single
solutions. Therefore, such a platform may help
companies not only to access the knowledge and
experience of older employees and retired people,
but also to save costs and drive innovation. After
implementing the platform in a company an
extensive study to verify the productivity
enhancement should be carried out.
The demographic change does not only entail an
aging society, but also an aging workforce. To
improve the performance of older employees,
companies have to carry out many changes.
Especially, in the field of EIS adjustments have to be
conducted to leverage the potential benefits of
elderly. In this paper we provided a statement about
our research on adapting EIS to the challenge of an
aging workforce.
We have identified two main research streams:
Firstly, we will run an empirical study to understand
the needs and work style of older workers in their
real working environment and conditions. Secondly,
we will design ISs for elderly. For this purpose, we
will follow a design science driven approach and
develop concrete software artefacts which then will
be evaluated by elderly.
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