“Britain needs you”, remarked the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt earlier this year.
This wasn’t a Lord Kitchener-style call to war. Instead, Mr. Hunt was directly addressing older workers, as part of a labour market speech that set out his plans to boost the UK’s economic growth. In particular, he referred to those older workers “who retired early after the pandemic or haven’t found the right role after furlough”.
Yet the world of employment may be less welcoming towards older workers than the government hopes. Research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) concluded that just 42% of surveyed hiring managers working in UK businesses and public services would be open “to a large extent” to hiring workers aged between 50 and 64.
“64? That’s young”, says Dorothy Byrne, in a recent Guardian article that discussed the fact that while many older people want to work, “bosses just don’t want us to”. Byrne herself writes that she has only managed to keep her job – president of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge – into her 70s, “because of a remarkable intervention by the Queen”.
But for those workers who don’t have the support of royalty on their side, the hiring landscape looks a little more bleak.
A pledge for age-inclusivity
In November last year, the Centre for Ageing Better launched the Age-friendly Employer Pledge, which is dedicated to “creating a more inclusive workforce”. By signing the pledge, employers “commit to improving work for people in their 50s and 60s and taking the necessary action to help them flourish in a multi-generational workforce”.
Over 100 organisations and businesses signed the pledge during its first 100 days, including Marriott Hotels, Vitality Health Insurance, and the animal charity RSPCA. Part of the pledge involves identifying a “senior sponsor for age-inclusion (and) ensure that age is specifically named within our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policies”.
Life beyond ‘traditional’ retirement
Well before the pandemic, the CIPD recommended five “essential components” for employers to address the challenges presented by an ageing workforce. They include potential-focused training and development, inclusive recruitment practices, and “embracing the talent attraction and retention benefits of flexible working”.
Employers should also aim to look beyond the traditional markers of advancing age – such as legal retirement – to those people who still have plenty to offer the workplace, and the willingness to offer it.
“If you are fit, still have your marbles and have something to offer, then you should be welcomed into the workplace”, writes Dorothy Byrne. “The prejudice against older workers is an outrage”.
The business benefits of a multi-generational workforce
Creating a multi-generational workforce isn’t just inclusive. It also brings a wealth of business benefits, as set out in an enlightening study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Productivity is one. “(A) firm that has a higher share of workers aged 50 and over than the average is 1.1% more productive,” notes the study. This is not only due to older workers being more productive on average themselves, but through “productivity-enhancing complementarities” between older and younger workers.
Talent is another. A multi-generational workforce leads to “a stronger pipeline of talent” as well as improved workforce continuity and “the retention of know-how”, as vital knowledge is passed from older to younger workers.
Many organisations have recognised benefits like these, which can offer a significant advantage in the world’s increasingly competitive labour market.
Whether or not your organisation decides to sign the Age-friendly Employment Pledge, our experienced team at Viridian HR can help by providing bespoke guidance and/or a knowledgeable, in-depth audit of key company policies.
Contact us to find out more.