What is an ageing workforce?

An ageing workforce is when a percentage of the working individuals that make up a workforce are considered to be of an ‘older generation,’ this is usually 50 or above. The CIPD suggests, those over 50 and in work in the UK, account for over 30% of today’s workforce.

In 2014, the average age exceeded 40 for the first time, and by 2040, it is projected that 1 in 7 people will be aged 75 or over.

This demographic shift means that there is an increasing number of older people in society and in work.

What are the impacts of an ageing workforce?

It is predicted that businesses are likely to face numerous challenges as their employees, as well as the labour force as a whole, continues to age.

There is a bit of a stigma around an older workforce being less productive; having more time off sick and being a H&S risk, but this is not the truth. There are so many amazing things about an ageing workforce. The older generation have so much knowledge and experience to carry out their role and to share with others. They can be positive role models and create diversity within your organisation.

But, to get the most out of your ageing workforce, you may need to change the way you do things. This means that you may need to adapt working practices to help manage and support a more age-diverse workforce.

So, what can be done to support an ageing workforce?

The UK Government have recently published a paper – “Future of an Ageing Population”. In it’s opening statement, it talks about enabling people to work for longer. Supporting people to live fuller and longer working lives. It is about removing the barriers to remain working and enabling workers to adapt to new technologies and other fundamental changes in the world of work.

So, what practical things can be done to help?

Flexible Working

Flexible working doesn’t just mean working from home. It can include lots of options such as:

  • Flexible shift work;
  • Variation of tasks and responsibilities;
  • Additional support with technology; and
  • Additional autonomy.

It could help to assess your current flexible working options and look to create some ways in which your business could work flexibly in order to suit the needs of your ageing workforce.

One to One Support

Holding regular one to ones with all employees is important but especially for those of an ageing workforce. Health concerns or other personal issues could arise and take affect much quicker in older employees and therefore it’s vital to keep in touch and up to date with anything they might be experiencing.

Health and Wellbeing

Older employees can be more susceptible to health problems with 75% of workers over 50 having a chronic illness. Businesses should aim to adjust their health and wellbeing policies to accommodate these potential health problems and keep these employees in the workforce. If you think your health and wellbeing policies could contain some gaps then please seek help to plug these gaps and work towards being more inclusive.

It is also vital to assess the business accessibility for employees affected by illnesses associated with age that could result in mobility problems or similar challenges. Be sure to enlist the help of your Health and Safety provider, or if required, an Occupational Health Advisor.

Encourage Life-long Learning

Older employees may not find grasping new technologies as easy as the younger generation, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t do it. It is so important to encourage life-long learning with all team members and to provide support as and when required.

Address the Stereotypes

Pigeonholing older workers as employees who aren’t great at technology, or any other sweeping stereotypes, can be dangerous and wrong (not to mention against the law!) These stereotypes are little more than generalisations and are not conducive to helping people to work together. It is important that your managers are able to move beyond labels and that there is a culture whereby employees feel that they can challenge others when they see stereotyping. Mixed aged teams bring a wealth of opportunity to any business – fresh thinking coupled with experience can produce highly effective teams and productivity.

It is important to train your managers in equality, diversity and inclusion.

Business Planning

For some industries, there is an urgent need to understand how they will replace a vast proportion of their workforce in the short to medium term due to retirement, while for others there is a need to understand how jobs traditionally done by younger workers can be filled by middle-aged and older workers in the future.

It’s important to identify those in the business who are nearing retirement age so future recruitment can be successfully planned for. This can be done informally through a conversation as it is vital to understand peoples intentions. However, it is important to understand that the way you hold this conversation, could come with risk. If you are unsure what you can and cannot say, get in touch!

Although you may assume someone is intending to retire, they very well could be intending on working for another few years, going part time, or asking for flexible working options. This way skills are retained in your business for longer and gives you more time to plan for the future. It also aids in the upskilling and training of other workers as once you know where the gap is going to be, you can work on training the next generation up, with the help of those with years of experience.

Succession planning is also another great option when looking at an older workforce. Those with the skills and attributes of a role that may soon become vacant should be identified and informed of their potential for promotion. This can save time and resources on recruitment and promotes a positive reputation that the business promotes from within where possible.

How Hallidays HR can help

If you would like to discuss any of the above in more detail, then please do not hesitate to contact us.