Within the workforce, increasingly we are seeing evidence that the retirement age is becoming meaningless. A number of factors, both social and economic, have led to a prolonged working life for a large part of the population, and now, according to a recent report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), titled The Changing Face of Retirement, gender is irrelevant too. More women are expected to be working well into their 70s and by 2020 females in their 60s will be as likely as men to be in paid work.
Supported by findings from the Office for National Statistics, which highlighted that the over 50s form 27 per cent of the current workforce, it is evident Britain’s ageing workforce is causing a shift in the traditional organisational structure of employment. Instead of viewing older workers as an invaluable source of experience and knowledge, many organisations fail to utilise the benefits of this age group, often allowing age discrimination to persist. Failure to tackle such issues has damaging consequences: 54 per cent of people believe their age negatively impacts their work and 42 per cent of over 40s feeling they would be passed over for promotion due to their age.
Instead of overlooking talent, employers should be looking to actively engage the older members within their organisation so that they continue to be a powerful driving force in the success of their business. Take the UK’s largest home improvement and garden centre retailer B&Q, for example. Having launched a pioneering age diversity programme in one of its key stores in the early 90s, today more than a quarter of store employees are aged 50+. Having recognised the benefits of recruiting older staff the company is continuing to see the rewards, from reduced turnover of employees and improved customer service, to high levels of commitment.
The onus here lies with the employer to make sure that they are retaining key, experienced talent whilst also maintaining growth and nurturing talent from within.
- Reward their loyalty and commitment
Older employees have the same expectations as everybody else; to work for an employer that appreciates their value, puts their skills to the best possible use and keeps them engaged with the role. With some older staff having stayed with one organisation for an extremely long length of time – especially when compared to the younger workers of today who have more transient careers – employers to make sure they are rewarding loyalty and commitment, whether through financial incentives or practices such as flexible working.
- Help develop their careers
Whilst it is the job of the employer to ensure they are not only reassuring older talent that their job isn’t at risk, companies must provide adequate career support that will encourage them to progress and flourish at the latter stage of their careers through career development programmes. Career development is often overlooked and underfunded yet there are few better ways through which to ensure success than by empowering employees with the tools they need to achieve core business outcomes.
By embracing technology and innovation companies can retain staff at all levels and in all age categories, empowering them to take control of their own career. In the case of older employees, implementing these practices will allow the business to develop a mature, talented team, who are able to progress through the company and pass on their knowledge to the next generation.
- Provide added incentives
Thanks to the recent announcement that flexible working rights have been extended beyond carers and those looking after children, many older employees who value more freedom as they approach retirement age will support organisations in retaining a more age diverse workforce.
As the power and capability of many mobile devices increases along with a reliance on the cloud, new technologies will make it even easier for companies to facilitate flexible working hours. ‘Bring Your Own Device’ changes the way businesses work and interact and the cloud enables employees take their office with them, working wherever they need to and removing the need to be in the office 9-5.
As we continue to live longer, healthier lives and inter-generational working becomes the norm, employers need to respond appropriately to cater to their staffs’ needs whilst exploiting the diverse range of talents present in their workplace. Those that successful engage their employees will gain a significant competitive advantage, both in terms of recruiting and retaining productive workers, making engaging employees at any age is an essential factor in driving growth and innovation.