In the current job market where workers increasingly consider resignation over remaining in a job or with a company that doesn’t suit them, employers face the challenge of adapting their approach to both recruitment and employee retention. One factor of this adaptation is employee age.
Research by the office of National Statistics estimates that by 2025, the number of workers under 30 years of age will decrease by 300,000. In comparison, workers in their fifties and older will rise by more than a million. Further research by the CIPD concludes that there will be an estimated 13.5 million jobs in the UK by 2027 but an immense shortfall of younger workers available to fill those jobs. It is therefore older workers who must meet this shortfall.
However, the key role of older workers and importance of age diversity within a workforce does appear to have eluded some employers. Research by the Centre for Aging Better points out that more than a third of workers aged between 50 and 70 years old feel that their age works against them when applying for a job.
There is no denying that the UK population is living longer and that increasing living expenses are driving many employees to delay retirement. In addition, the standard retirement age will increase to 68 between 2037 and 2039. So how effective is an older workforce for UK employers?
The benefits of employing older workers
The approach of many employers to older workers is often with an eye on impending retirement. Why hire or invest in an individual who may not be with the company for many more years when there are younger, more innovative candidates available? However, there are several important benefits to employing older workers.
Wealth of work and life experience
Older workers bring with them a bank of both work and life experience that younger workers do not. Often this experience is accompanied by a wider network of business contacts and industry know-how.
That wealth of experience also means that older workers generally find it easier to adapt to change, such as a new team, technology, or work pattern.
Higher retention rate
Older workers will generally remain in a job or with the same employer for longer than a younger worker. This may be because an older worker is further along their career path and/or has realised their career goals or the fact that older workers experience a higher level of job satisfaction than their younger colleagues.
In addition, older workers are generally more loyal to their employer and have lower levels of work absenteeism than younger employees.
Role models and trainers
The experience and accumulated knowledge of older workers can be put to good use in the workplace in role model, mentor, and training positions. Whether officially or unofficially, older workers are in an ideal position to pass their own learning onto younger colleagues.
Increase in company productivity
Research carried out by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) concludes that employing just 10% more workers aged over 50 years old can increase company productivity by 1.1%. The research states that the key reasons for this increase are lower job turnover and the greater experience and more developed skills of older workers.
An age diverse workforce, that is, a workforce that accepts employees of all ages with no preference for young or old, unites a wide range of approaches, experience, and skillsets. Learning becomes a two-way process as both younger and older workers share their knowledge.
Age diversity in the workplace can often instigate innovation as different thinking processes are brought together to view a problem or scenario together.
How to recruit and retain an older workforce
If UK employers are to embrace age diversity and in particular take advantage of the increasing number of older workers, what steps can they take to attract and retain employees in their fifties and older?
Age neutral job ads in the right place
In the same way that job adverts should be worded to reduce terms suggesting a preference for a particular gender, so too should they avoid wording that indicates a preference for a particular age group. Phrases, writing-style, and imagery should be age-neutral to attracts candidates of any age.
Job adverts should be placed across a range of websites and outlets to ensure visibility to candidates of all ages.
Anonymous candidate screening
When CVs and applications are screened, details of age should be removed to ensure that age bias does not affect the hiring manager’s decision. This works to the favour of all ages, whether young or more mature, and guards against age discrimination.
Offer flexible working
Research carried out by the Office of National Statistics concluded that working from home could persuade older workers over 50 to delay their retirement, compared to those who worked on-site. Older remote workers also reported a feeling of improved wellbeing and work-life balance.
Promote an age positive company culture
Age is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and should be a key factor of any employer’s approach to DEI. It may prove helpful to hold leadership workshops on managing an age diverse workforce, including the benefits of employing older workers.
Ensure older workers are aware of the company’s age positive culture by including a diversity statement in job adverts, job descriptions, social media accounts, and the company’s website.
Create age-diverse teams so that all workers – regardless of age – have the chance to contribute, drive innovation, and share information with their colleagues.
Offer appropriate employment benefits
Different age groups prioritise different employment benefits. For older workers, key employment benefits include:
- flexible working
- workplace pension
- life insurance and healthcare
- lifelong learning
- phased retirement programme
Advice around retirement and pension planning may also be appreciated.
As research points to a workforce who are living longer, want or need to work longer, and who bring a wealth of experience and learning to the workplace, embracing an age-diverse culture which values older workers as well as young is undoubtedly the intelligent move for employers to make.