The ageing UK workforce is remaining in full time employment for longer than ever, with almost one in three companies expecting the number of employees over the age of 60 to increase significantly by 2020, according to the latest study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
Retirement as we know it could soon become a thing of the past and managing a senior workforce poses a new set of challenges for employers, such as health and productivity. But the value older workers offer businesses in terms of experience and knowledge is vital to keep the organisations’ productivity running to a high standard.
Constant warnings of a rising number of older workers preventing the younger generation from gaining a foothold in organisations is a concern; but it is important for businesses to be aware that this is a challenge of diversity and mobility. HR leaders need to avoid creating a ‘waiting room’ of staff, stagnant and waiting for an opening for their next role while older and more experienced workers halt co-workers’ personal development.
The fact that older workers are remaining in their roles for longer doesn’t mean staff development should be halted further down the line. The danger is that younger workers will go elsewhere to seek out the next step if they fail to gain traction in their existing roles. It is therefore important for business leaders to consider both older and younger workers in terms of their needs and crucially, their development.
Despite the apparent challenges, discriminating against older workers is poor business practice. By only looking to fill roles with younger people, businesses risk losing workers with experience and knowledge gained over many years of employment and replacing them with under-trained or underperforming staff, who may not have the skills and experience to fulfil that role.
Businesses leaders who shun older workers are also liable to be accused of age discrimination – as are those organisations that continue to deny their older workers the further training, development and support they deserve.
These are issues businesses need to avoid. The key notion for business leaders to consider is that the argument of Younger vs. Older workers should not be seen as a battle for job roles – instead it needs to be considered in terms of skill sets and benefit.
Older employees are able to provide critical pastoral and professional support for less experienced, younger workers. They also have well-developed communication skills, are dedicated and detail-orientated, focused and attentive.
The important take away for business leaders is that different generations hold different sets of skills. By effectively managing a diverse range of employees and age groups, businesses can get the best out of their workforce. All employees need to be considered as equal and their benefits and drawbacks weighed up, considered and adapted to as much as possible and crucially, equally.