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07 Mar 2024
by Catherine Kirkland

How an older, manual workforce is supported at Arla Foods

Catherine Kirkland, Culture and Inclusion Lead at Arla Foods, outlines how it is managing an older workforce through better understanding organisational health and rethinking job design

Arla Foods employs nearly 3,800 people, just over a fifth of whom are over the age of 50. The average age of our workforce is 43, and 44 in the supply chain. Our oldest employee is 75, and the average length of service is 16 years.

Most older workforce members are frontline workers in manual roles such as delivery driving or on production lines. Longer-term absence issues tend to be musculoskeletal.

We want to support the wellbeing of all our colleagues, and are very conscious of the ageing demographic. To understand more about our organisational health, we have put health kiosks on every site. These give us an overall picture of the wellbeing age across the organisation, as well as data on other aspects of health collectively, which is helpful for identifying hotspots. Next year, we will focus on raising awareness of heart health. We also gather internal HR and external provider data to understand our demographics.

People aren’t retiring predictably. We try to be as flexible as possible, but the manual nature of many of our roles means that we need to think about how to really support people later in life. Like many manufacturers, we are thinking about how we can be more innovative about our ways of working, such as shorter shifts, flexible working and split shifts.