As life expectancy in the UK has risen steadily over the last few years, it’s inevitable that the retirement age for employees has increased too. With medical technology advancing rapidly, we can only expect the rise to keep going. So with more of us living for longer, and therefore working, for longer how prepared are we as businesses and employers for an ageing workforce?
A survey of 500 UK employers has shown that just 20% of employers are thinking about and discussing an ageing workforce and how to accomodate one. As well as this, just 1/4 of employees consider their workplace capable of coping with an ageing workforce. By the time we reach 2020, predictions state that a third of all workers will be over 50. Therefore, employers are being encouraged to put relevant changes in place to ensure that their workforce is equipped to hold older workers.
Employees over 50 have the same skills as their younger colleagues as well as extended experience, well accumulated knowledge and years worth of business connections. By making the choice not to accomodate, utilise and treat older staff equally it’s a form of discrimination in the workplace. Just as you wouldn’t discriminate against somebody in a wheel chair, somebody from a different ethnic background of somebody of a different faith, you can’t discriminate against somebody because of their age.
How to Manage an Ageing Workforce
With recent statistics showing an increase in the average age of employees, do you feel that you as an employer or manager are equipped to offer a suitable workplace that older employees are able to flourish in and feel valued in? Do you know what you should be doing to provide a workplace that accomodates employees of all ages? The survey previously discussed also uncovered that 1 in 5 employers found it difficult to make appropriate changes to manage age diversity at work.
It’s not always just a problem for the employer, with older workers sharing their difficulties in having managers younger than them. It’s your job to ensure that each role is filled by the most suitable candidate, so if you know that an older employer would be better equipped, don’t feel less inclined to give them the position because they’re close to retirement. Even if they are only in the role a short period of time, they could pass on valuable skills and knowledge to other memebers of the team.
A shocking figure next. Only a third of employers are providing managers with training in age diversity. We’d hope all managers are trained in race equality, ability equality and usually gender equality too. So why not age equality? Some probably feel it not to be necessary. However, with our workforces expected to see a rise in older employees, it’s essential that managers are trained to ensure that age inequality isn’t present in the workplace.
It’s not uncommon for employees to leave a company prematurely because they feel that they aren’t supported as they age. It’s an age old attitude that as an employee ages they will want to decrease their workload and stop progressing. More and more people are working well into their 60’s and 70’s and their brain is just as sharp as it was in their 30’s and 40’s. Just like their younger colleagues, they need to be given opportunity to progress and achieve more. A good manager will ensure that all employees have equal opportunities to do so. Offer the same level of courses, training and internal progression to your whole team. Someone in their 50’s could have another 10 – 15 years working time left. Would you feel appreciated if your progress was static for that length of time? Remember, older employees have lots to offer a team and this needs to be utilised both for the benefit of the team and the employee.
When reviewing your recruitment process, you’ll need to adopt new practices to ensure age discrimination doesn’t occur. Within the workplace, an age-friendly atmosphere needs to be evident in everybody. By doing this, you are allowing your workforce to feel that they can work for as long as they want to rather than as long as they feel able to.
Top Tips to Adopting an Age-Friendly Attitude in the Workplace
1 – Be flexible. Make the workplace suitable for everybody no matter what their age is. Think about things such as staff social activities. Are they appealing to all ages? Do they work for everybody’s timetable? Try and find things suitable for everybody. Also consider flexible working hours, remote working and employee benefits/perks.
2 – Be supportive. As your employees age, think about health measures. Do you offer dental care/opticians private care? Consider altering these as people age. Do you offer flu jabs etc? Take time to discuss with your employees what they would find valuable.
3 – Allow progression. In terms of professional development, everybody needs to have the same opportunities. Give the same level of opportunity to all of your employees, with no limit because of age. As stated before, people in their 50’s still have a long time in employment due to increasing retirement ages. Some will have plans to work past retirement age and won’t want their progression to be stunted because of lack of opportunity. Providing progression opportunities also aids in boosting employee morale and their value to the company.
4 – Make sure your recruitment gets it right. You’ve probably recruited employees several times. You probably find it quite mundane. You’ve also probably disregarded a candidate because they’re close to retirement age. You must alter these attitudes when recruiting. The job should go to the most qualified and suitable applicant. Whether that be somebody in their 30’s or their 60’s. There needs to be policies in place to ensure that non-bias recruitment is standard.
5 – Company culture. Within every workplace there should be an inclusive attitude for everybody. No matter their age, each employee needs to be appreciated, valued and given the same opportunities. Whether that’s by offering training or by ensuring everybody wants to participate in this months staff social – it needs to happen. All employees and employers need to show an non-bias attitude and it needs to be dealt with if any signs of age discrimination are shown.