According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), during the pandemic around 200,000 workers over 50 dropped out of the labour market and into early retirement.
This meant the UK economy lost highly valuable members of its workforce, who took their wealth of experience with them. This was known as the ‘Great Retirement’ and contributed to a national talent shortage.
Now, with the cost-of-living crisis ongoing, many are rethinking retirement and re-entering the workforce. The latest ONS figures indicate workers over the age of 65 are again becoming more active in the economy (i.e., looking for a job or already in work) with an increase of 1.4% compared to the last quarter.
With many employers still finding it a challenging time to recruit, this is a great opportunity for those looking to return to the world of work.
The benefits of hiring older workers
Older workers have more experience and have accumulated more skills than anyone else – that’s likely why most senior leaders are older. Our Chairman and CEO James Reed shared that his father, Sir Alec Reed – at 88 years old – has been extremely helpful to him recently: “He’s the only person in the company to remember what it’s like running a company in a period of high inflation.”
By some definitions, likely originating from the United States’ Age Discrimination in Employment Act 1967, the “ageing workforce” can refer to anyone 40 and over, although many experts put the figure higher at 50 or 55.
There are stereotypes that people over a certain age can’t use technology or don’t understand it and are less flexible than younger workers. However, in a Reed Talent Solutions webinar on internal mobility and the ageing workforce, Declan Slattery, the recently appointed Chairman of Global Advisory Board TALiNT Partners and former head of talent attraction and engagement at NatWest Group, said he – and people his age - have lived through the evolution of technology and adapted to the world of banking apps and so on.
He added many older workers will be “far more flexible” than some slightly younger professionals who might have family commitments that older workers will no longer have.
Many older workers also have more of a desire to contribute. This is demonstrated by the fact that while some older people who previously left the workforce are hoping to return due to the higher cost of living, many were already hoping to because they want to be more active and keep busy.
Break down barriers to entry for older workers
Age is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. Business leaders should focus on eliminating any signs of ageism in their company and creating a welcoming environment for older workers. Most discrimination comes from unconscious biases, which managers can be trained in to mitigate the influence of these biases in recruitment.
Your recruitment process must be inclusive at every stage, for workers of all ages. One way to expand your talent pool to include older workers is to assess the placement of your job adverts. If you’re exclusively advertising online, you might only be reaching young candidates. Try placing your role in a newspaper, for example, to cast a wider net.
Another area to consider is removing any ageist language or upper age limits from your job adverts and application forms. This is common for apprenticeships and training schemes, but for these and most other roles, age is irrelevant, and asking for it indicates a discriminatory mindset.
Salaries and benefits
Most workers will leave once they reach a certain age if they no longer feel supported or appreciated by their employer. This could give you a chance to hire a talented, seasoned professional to help grow your bottom line.
Those who say ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ are perpetuating the bias that older people are inflexible. Older people are still learning. They need and appreciate training and development opportunities just as much as anyone else. An intergenerational workforce – one that includes age groups such as baby boomers, Generation X, millennials and Generation Z – encourages team members to learn from each other and develop new perspectives. This is why inclusion and diversity are so important.
Providing age-specific benefits, such as greater support for post-menopausal employees, could lead to an influx of interest in your roles and greater appreciation from your existing workforce. Flexibility and agility are highly attractive to workers over 50, as older workers might have greater health needs, or would just prefer a more flexible working pattern.
There is a perception that hiring younger people is cheaper because they have less experience, but you’re potentially paying older people a bit more for far higher-quality work. If they are producing the same work, at an equally high standard, they should be paid the same salary, regardless of age.
Retirement and pensions
Employers should ensure they optimise their processes for retirement and pensions.
Pension schemes are provided by most employers, but most professionals don’t plan for retirement until they are at least 40. Businesses with a reputation for handling these situations well are more likely to attract workers of any age who are thinking of their futures. Assess whether your pension contribution is competitive – above the 3% minimum – and adjust the rate accordingly.
Handling retirement can be a sensitive time for employers and their ageing employees, but it must be discussed close to the time they might consider leaving.
Cross-training between younger and older workers is also important. It is not only beneficial for the development of both, but also prepares younger people to take over once someone retires. This allows you to keep their knowledge within your company.
Employers who show they value the experience and knowledge of older employees are more likely to attract and retain them.
To hire an experienced candidate or to start your journey to return to the workforce, contact your nearest Reed specialist recruiter.