Employers: Facing the Challenges of an Ageing Workforce

Let’s talk about something we’re all seeing more of in the workplace: older employees working for longer. It’s great because they bring tons of experience, but it also comes with its own set of challenges we need to figure out how to handle.

Almost 10 years ago, Jo attended a seminar presented by Age Inclusive at the NECC entitled ‘Defusing the Demographic Time Bomb’ to learn more about how to handle this often sensitive issue. As she sat around the table with other HR professionals and line managers from a range of sectors the main consensus was that we were all well aware of the ageing workforce but we wanted to know more about how to manage this demographic change. And that is still as prevalent today as it was then.

Setting the scene: There has already been a significant shift in the age profile of workers since the end of the Default Retirement Age in 2012. 1 in 4 people aged 65-74 continue to earn a regular income. By 2024 nearly half of the population will be over the age of 50. Following these findings, a survey of small to medium sized businesses discovered that the majority of employers agreed that training and skills development is critical in ensuring that mature employees can work effectively up to the age of 60 and beyond.

Understanding the Dynamics: Ageing employees have got heaps of knowledge and work ethic, which is awesome. But, there may be other things to consider like health issues, tech skills, and what they want out of their careers at this stage.

ACAS states that while any employees who are near retirement age can refuse to undertake further training, an employer can insist they take part in training if their performance is below what is expected.

But how do you tackle these difficult conversations and issues?

Open Communications: Employers should hold regular reviews with their staff (not just the older ones) as part of their overall appraisal process – a catch-up meeting every 6 weeks would open up communication between the two parties and recognise and manage capability issues before they make a lasting effect on the employment relationship.

Tech issues: Society often assumes that older people are not ‘tech-savvy’ however; this stereotyping may be factually incorrect (as well as being discriminatory). A report conducted by Age UK found that for the first time, the number of people who are aged 65 and over who had used the internet had overtaken those who had not. Help your employees by providing training and support to help them stay in the loop. It’s all about making sure everyone feels confident and capable.

Health & Wellness: Aside from issues of adequate performance and technological know-how are matters of health. According to the Department for Work and Pension’s ‘Fuller Working Lives’ document, half of the people aged between 50 and state pension age have a long term health condition.

As people age, they might deal with health stuff that can affect their work. Offering wellness programs and more comfortable work setups can make a big difference in keeping them happy and productive. And understanding about time off for appointments etc never goes amiss.

As well as the health of employees, employers must consider the family and caring responsibilities of their staff. A study, based on a survey, case studies and analysis of existing data by Thomas Coram Research, found that:

  • two in three people between 50 and retirement age are in paid work;
  • by age 50, one in three people have grandchildren;
  • three in five 50-year-olds still have living parents;
  • nearly half those surveyed (who were working for, or recently retired) had some caring responsibility

We need to make sure our workplaces are understanding, welcoming and inclusive for everyone, regardless of age. Combat ageism and bias in the workplace by encouraging teamwork across generations and offering flexible work options can help keep everyone feeling valued.

Succession Planning: And finally, what about when older employees decide it is time to retire? Employers need to have a plan in place to make sure we’re not left scrambling. Identifying potential leaders and giving them the tools they need to step up is key to keeping things running smoothly.

The first secret to managing an ageing workforce is to produce an age profile of your staff to assist in producing an effective workplace planning process. How can you prepare if you don’t know if there is going to be a future issue or potential skills gap? Secondly create open channels of communication and have confidence in your HR policies and procedures.

Managing an ageing workforce might come with its challenges, but it’s nothing we can’t handle. By taking care of our employees’ health, supporting their learning and development, promoting inclusivity, and planning for the future, we can make sure everyone feels supported and valued, no matter their age. Let’s embrace the wisdom and experience our older employees bring to the table and keep rocking it together!

And if you need assistance in this area – then do get in touch!