Realising the worth of your older workers

Written by
Richard Shea

16 Sep 2015

16 Sep 2015 • by Richard Shea

Dont undervalue a valuable asset

Whilst organisations often focus on the value new, young talent brings to the business, there is a specific group of workers whose current worth is being undervalued. This is the ageing workforce.

With much of the attention on managing Millennials, employers should also be concentrating on engaging these often overlooked employees, taking advantage of years of invaluable experience, reliability and strong work ethic. These individuals have the potential to become a powerful driving force in the success of their business, whilst contributing to wider economic growth. 

A number of factors, both social and economic, have led to a prolonged working life for a large part of the population and as a result the retirement age has become meaningless. This, in turn, has put an onus on employers to ensure that they not only retain key, experienced talent, but also maintain their growth and nurture their talent within the organisation.

Follow in Swedens footsteps

With 10 million people in the UK aged over 65 years old this is a real opportunity for businesses to tap into something Sweden is already championing. According to PwC’s Golden Age Index which reflects the importance of older workers to the economy, Sweden is the strongest in the EU. Having introduced a programme of reforms since the 1990s to encourage people to stay in work for longer, it has some of the highest employment rates for older workers, especially among women. UK businesses can take inspiration here, ensuring that as well as devising strategies for attracting talent, they are working to retain key, experienced older talent.

For example, rewarding loyalty and commitment through incentives beyond pay, such as the option of flexible working to enable a better work/life balance or facilitating career transitions, permitting staff to take secondments to other departments or locations, can be highly effective. Additionally, keeping long-standing members of staff motivated to perform through career development programmes is vital for ensuring that all workers are adequately supported to progress and flourish, regardless of age.

By evaluating the skills, traits and motivations of employees, employers can ensure all staff are provided with personalised development plans to help them progress. Not only does this allow individuals to improve their competency set, up skill and ensure their career is on track, but it supports organisations to benchmark this data against the qualities of current leaders within the company, facilitating them to identify existing employees who show potential to be developed into leadership roles.

Tackling age discrimination

Employers also have a responsibility to tackle age discrimination in the workplace. A survey last year discovered that not only do 54% of people believe their age negatively impacts their work, but that 42% of over 40s felt they would be passed over for promotion due to their age. It is not unusual nowadays to see large companies run by members of Gen X as older baby boomers retire, but having a younger boss doesn’t mean older workers should feel threatened, and nor should leaders dismiss their potential.

By embracing technology and innovation in HR, companies can retain staff at all levels and in all age categories, empowering them to take control of their own career and allowing them to have fuller working lives. 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, whilst boosting the UK economy.