Workforces are Ageing; Work Culture Must be More Age-Friendly

BlogHR Advice Posted: Sunday 15th May 2016 by

There is a tendency to assume that whatever we have grown up with is the way things are supposed to be. In reality, society evolves, and faster than we imagine; what seems natural to us was not so for our grandparents and nor will it be for our grandchildren.

The standard working age/retirement model, where men retired at 65 and women at 60, only began in the 1930s, and then not for everyone – and now that model is outdated. In 2015, the number of people in the UK working beyond the age of 65 had more than doubled from what it was ten years earlier. The disappearance of final salary pension schemes was partly responsible; legislation on age discrimination was partly responsible; but a major reason for the change is that people are in general healthier and fitter in their 60s than they used to be and do not want to stop working.

Research suggests that the main reason for people in their 50s to work is money, but that other factors come into play ten years later: the need to feel that one is contributing; a sense of purpose; and, most of all, a desire for companionship and social relationships.

So we understand why older people want to go on working. But is there any reason why employers should feel any need to facilitate that wish? Yes – in our opinion, there is.

By 2022, the UK will have created two million new jobs and will have 12.5 million people leaving the workforce. To fill those 14.5 million vacancies there will be just seven million younger people reaching employment age. The shortfall has to be made up somehow, and it is difficult to see a better way than allowing older people who want to go on working to do so.

The benefits don’t stop there. The fact that the workforce is ageing tells us that customers are also growing older, and older workers are more in tune with older customers.

To get the most out of an older workforce requires a change of attitude among employers. Some are already a long way down this road: here are some of the things they have found helpful:

  • Pair older and younger workers and encourage mentoring and the sharing of knowledge
  • Make provision for retraining so that older workers can learn new skills and move to less physical jobs as the years accumulate
  • Take particular care over safety practices. A teenager’s fall on a slippery surface is a nuisance; it can be a lot more than that for someone in her or his sixties or older
  • Match job demands to employees’ physical capabilities
  • Promote flexible working

Further changes in the law are likely to make the adjustment to an ageing workforce necessary, and it doesn’t have to be seen as a problem. The right attitude can turn it to advantage.

Human Results offer expert HR services on retainer, or on a one-off basis to help guide you through the daily challenges of managing your business from a people perspective, including employee engagement, dispute resolution and resolving workplace conflict. We also provide expert leadership development coaching programmes to secure long-term capability within your organisation, and a critical support structure for your leaders.

For more information, call Human Results on 01952 288361 for a no obligation, confidential discussion.

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