With more people living longer, the workforce contains a higher proportion of older workers than ever before. And this demographic trend is only going to continue with one in five of the UK population expected to be 65 or older by 2030.
With pension pots failing to provide people with the retirement they want, more people are working longer. However, many people over the age of 50 are at risk of leaving the workforce early. And not always because they want to.
With many businesses struggling to recruit due to high employment rates, it’s time to consider hiring older workers and all the benefits they can bring.
The Challenges Faced by Older Workers
Older workers are generally considered to be people over the age of 50. However, in some industries served by younger people – think fashion retail or hospitality – older workers could be thought of as anyone over the age of 35.
According to the Centre for Ageing Better, staff over 50 face age discrimination when applying for jobs or trying to progress their careers. They are also:
- more likely to be stuck in low paid jobs
- feel most insecure about losing their jobs
- less likely to be offered opportunities for development
In fact, only 25% of employees aged 50-59 and 22% of those aged 60-69 felt their employer encouraged them to take up learning and development opportunities. This is a significant drop compared to 44% of 18-39 year-olds and 32% of 40-49 year-olds.[Text Wrapping Break]
With older workers forming an increasing part of the workforce, it’s time for employers to change their perspectives and understand what the over 50s can contribute.
What They Bring to Your Business
Older doesn’t mean worse. In fact, many of the UK’s key industries rely on more mature staff. Take farming. The average age of a UK farmer is 59. These people bring years of skill and expertise to their jobs. And the country remains well fed and is able to export meat and other produce because of their work.
There are plenty of other benefits that come with hiring older employees:
- They’re less likely to leave than their younger counterparts – saving you time and money when it comes to recruitment and training.
- They’ll understand your ageing customer base better – as the population ages, it’s not only workers but customers who will be getting older. Having employees who are the same age as your customers, who understand their needs and can talk to them on an equal footing will bring major benefits to your business.
- Diversity brings additional advantages to your wider team and business – and that includes age diversity. Think fresh perspectives, knowledge sharing, new ideas and improved problem solving.
There are also benefits to the economy as employing more older workers will contribute to tax revenues offsetting some of the costs associated with an ageing population. If everyone in the UK worked one year longer, GDP would increase by 1%. Which can only be good for the economy and, by proxy, your business.
Managing Older Workers
Hiring older workers may be easier in some locations than others due to the demographic makeup of the area in which your business is located.
Cities tend to have larger populations of younger people whereas older people often move away from urban areas. So, if hiring over 50s sounds like a good option for your firm, you might need HR support to attract and retain the right people.
But it’s not just recruitment that you’ll need to consider. Think about adjusting your workplace practices to create an age-friendly culture that appeals to all generations.
A key practice that cuts across all age groups (although for different reasons), is flexible working. For older workers this could mean giving people the opportunity to work from home, condense their hours or work part-time or in job shares. These options will allow them to:
- achieve better work-life balance
- carry out caring responsibilities
- manage health conditions
- wind down to retirement
Making flexible working practices available to all staff is a certain way to engage your people, whatever their age.
For older workers you might also need to consider making changes to:
- Work tasks – heavy lifting could be a no-go for some older people but judge this on a case by case basis
- Training provision – ensuring everyone in your team is up to speed with how you work will deliver best return on your compensation and benefits investment
- Technology – not all over 50s are behind the technology times but you might need to invest in technology training to ensure your latest recruit is up to speed. This could mean introducing formal training sessions or learning on the job by being buddied up with a colleague.
As skill shortages worsen and the working population ages, hiring older workers will be a necessity for many businesses. The workplace imposes barriers on every individual and all employees, no matter their age, have their individual strengths and weaknesses. Your challenge as a business owner is to find out where your staff need support and where you can make the most of their existing expertise.