Retain, retrain, recruit: adapting HR strategy for the ageing workforce


With population ageing now a global phenomenon, workplaces throughout the world are having to adapt HR strategies to support an emerging ageing workforce. In the UK, over 18 per cent of the UK population were aged 65 years or over in 2017, approximately 2 per cent higher than in 2007. This figure is set to increase to around 21 per cent by 2027, according to the ONS.

Training an older worker

Our joint survey with the CIPD, revealed that 52 per cent of organisations believe that the impact of an ageing population will be extremely profound, impacting their organisation’s people management policies and processes over the coming years. With that in mind, what exactly should organisations be considering when adapting their HR strategy to suit the ever-growing ageing workforce?

With age comes experience
With many years of experience under their belts, the ageing workforce has undoubtedly gained an invaluable amount of knowledge and expertise – things that need to be passed onto newer, less experienced people within the organisation. They also add to the diversity of your workplace. 

The impact of age on health and productivity in work is important.  Both physical and cognitive capacities change with age but are highly variable between individuals - age is a poor predictor of performance.

However, retaining older workers through reward can prove challenging for some businesses as policies need to be adapted to the differing priorities of an ageing workforce. According to Care@Work, those in the ageing workforce bracket, i.e. the ‘Baby boomers’ need special consideration to keep them motivated and productive.

Mentoring and training
As well as working hard to retain those workers in the older age bracket, providing additional training to get these workers up to speed in areas like technology trends and social media is something to consider. This will help employees in that age group feel valued that time is being spent and policies are being adapted to fit their needs. Equally you could utilise their experience by making them part of a formal / informal mentoring arrangement whereby they help and support “younger” employees through their development. This could have a dual feel good factor about it for both the mentee and the mentor.

Wellbeing in the workplace
Work environment modifications can compensate for many changes and impairments associated with age. For example, ergonomic computer equipment and desks with adjustable heights allow for periods of work standing up, which has been known to reduce musculoskeletal pain. Modifications such as locally-controllable lighting enables more comfortable reading, aiding concentration.  

In addition to the physical environment, psychological and social aspects are also important in understanding related health reasons for leaving the working environment. For example, low social support and job satisfaction are risk factors for illness absence.  

Health checks and mental health support are viewed positively by all age groups although their impact is hard to assess. However, there may be resistance to employers intervening in personal health and lifestyle choices, particularly among older workers.

The older generation may value more flexible working arrangements including the possibility to work reduced hours.  An adapted office environment is also an attractive offering to cater for any physical impairments employees may have. If you have a strategy which allows for the workforce to be agile and flexible in their location of work, they could self-manage this in their own personal work environment.

Offering phased retirement
The option of a potential phased retirement is another great incentive to attract older workers. Following the abolition of the Default Retirement Age people can decide when they wish to retire. Therefore, it would be wise to create an open culture in which conversations about career plans take place throughout working life and thus make retirement discussions a matter of course. Such strategies have aided workforce planning and increased older worker retention rates in companies such as BMW (Germany). 

Removing barriers in recruitment
It is clear that the knowledge and skills of older workers will enhance your working environment. With that being said, many people find that age is one of the biggest barriers to progressing in their careers or when joining a new organisation. Ensuring that there is no age-related bias when hiring new members of your workforce is a vital first step. 

Training around unconscious age-related bias and stereotypes of older workers is something that all organisations should consider with the goal of forming a more cohesive workforce and creating a more positive and rewarding environment for older employees.

The combination of an increasing average age of the UK workforce and the need for workers to stay in employment later into life means that organisations really do need to start thinking about ageing workforce strategies now. Incorporating the above into an overall ‘retain, retrain, recruit and reward’ strategy will help HR departments to bolster their ageing workforce and tap into the valuable knowledge, skills and expertise possessed by older workers –  making workplaces more inclusive, diverse and productive. 

The author is Dipa Mistry Kandola, head of flexible benefit services at LCP. 

This article is provided by LCP


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