As the tech skill shortage continues, organisations are looking at all solutions possible to solve this problem. Often, our tendency is to look to the next generation: investing in early talent schemes, for example. But does our obsession with ‘what’s next’ mean that we are missing out on talent towards the other end of the spectrum? Those aged 50 years and over have seen the largest increase of inactive people amongst all age groups since the start of the pandemic. I wanted to explore further how this demographic of workers could be being overlooked and how they could be a vital talent pool for organisations.
Focus on the younger generations
Generation Z currently make up 40% of the workforce as they outnumber their Baby Boomer, Generation X and Millennial co-workers, meaning there is more focus on attracting and retaining them. Flexible working, mental health support and specifically curated packages are some of the many benefits being pitched to particularly attract the younger workforce, but what about the older workforce? With the ONS highlighting that adults in their 50s were more likely to leave a role due to stress, mental health or a change in lifestyle, it’s apparent that organisations should be doing more to attract and retain those over 50.
Older workers have largely suffered at the hands of the pandemic, with them being more likely to have been made redundant and they are now less likely to be reemployed in comparison to younger workers, leading to 19,000 more people between 50 and 64 being unemployed. In fact, workers younger than 50 were almost twice as likely to find a new job within six months, with many older workers turning to part-time and temporary work as they continue their search.
These impacting factors could leave the older workforce more financially vulnerable as the retirement age continues to move up – originally being equalized at 65 in 2018, increasing to 66 in 2020 and raised to 67 by 2028 – and the cost of living crisis worsens. The fact of the matter may be that many over 50s will want to work for longer, whether by choice or necessity, and organisations will need to learn how to access those skills as talent shortages continue.
Why do older workers miss out?
Countless surveys have found that age is the biggest type of workplace discrimination experienced in the UK, and many cite age as the number one barrier to job opportunities. 36% of workers over 50 believe they have been disadvantaged at work because of their age and 52% of jobseekers believe their age meant they were less likely to receive job offers, showing the clear bias of the UK job market.
Although age discrimination is the most common form of workplace discrimination, it is very rarely spoken about within organisations or the wider UK job market. This means that often the experiences of older workers are overlooked. Older workers are also more likely to say their age is seen as an issue at work with certain perceptions surrounding older workers, such as being less adaptable or having less tech knowledge, proving difficult to shake. Society perpetuates stereotypes that lead to age discrimination and general negative attitudes towards older workers, even though these stereotypes are completely unfounded.
Often age discrimination doesn’t happen on purpose, it’s an unconscious bias ingrained in workplaces that occurs repeatedly, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect the victim of the discrimination. We recently spoke about this on our Lorien podcast, which was focused on menopause, with one example given that a woman was embarrassed to speak about the pain and discomfort she was in, and her employer was ignorant to it, so she chose to leave. If an employer could educate themselves and their workers on health issues and other problems that older workers experience, then perhaps the high percentage of age discrimination experienced would decrease.
What opportunities are there?
With the potential of having five different generations in the workplace at the same time, the opportunities to derive value from older workers are aplenty. As one of the oldest working generations, those over 50 have proven they are adaptable in the workplace as tech continues to advance and they continue to embrace it, as an example, with the inventions of Google, social media and mobile phones occurring in their working careers. This ability to learn and adjust in the workplace should not be overlooked, as it’s a vital skill that many of the younger workforce will not possess to such a level. It also assures organisations that older workers could confidently re-skill and assist in helping with the talent shortage.
There is also a great opportunity to rebalance the workplace with diverse opinions and mentoring programmes. It is undoubtably a good thing to have workers from as many generations as possible to create a dynamic and diverse workforce, and older workers can play a valuable role in supporting and nurturing new talent. Each generation has something to learn from the other, be it expertise or practical skills and a mentoring system would enrich the workplace and allows each employee to bring their own unique skills to the table.
Additionally, many employers have opted to take part in the four-day working week pilot programme, with other countries such as New Zealand and Belgium embracing this too. With the four-day working week and flexible and hybrid working models offered regularly by employers, many benefits that workers over 50 desire are already in place. Employers could also offer the option to job share to maintain a heathy work/life balance and avoid unnecessary stress in the workplace.
Without doubt there are opportunities for organisations to bolster their hiring through directly creating attraction and retention campaigns for older workers, and this is something that we will absolutely be focussing on in our client solutions.