Earlier this month, the Government announced that Britain is effectively ‘running out’ of workers.

According to the Department for Work and Pensions, it’s predicted that around 13.5 million vacancies will be created in the next decade, but only 7 million young people are due to leave schools and colleges, meaning that businesses will have to deal with a potential talent gap of over 6 million workers.

This problem is being exacerbated by an exodus of talent at the other end of the spectrum, with experienced workers retiring, leaving businesses without the skills and experience that they need. It’s vital that organisations take stock of this trend and start acting now in order to meet the future talent needs of their business.

While a lot of the focus is being put on attracting young people into businesses, keeping older workers is equally important in order to build a sustainable talent pipeline. Not only do older workers already have the skills to fill particular roles, they also have an incredibly rich understanding of the organisation, its customers and the industry in which it operates. It’s also worth considering the additional value that more mature workers can bring to organisations as mentors to younger people.

Apprenticeships, internships and work experience schemes are becoming increasingly popular ways to ‘tempt’ young talent into a business, but the success of these schemes always lies in the ability of the employer to provide effective training and mentoring, something which older workers are well placed to offer.

In order to retain this talent within the business and reap the benefits outlined above, employers need to think creatively about the role, environment, position and package they can offer them.  Businesses need to recognise that an employee’s needs and priorities change over time and reflect this in the way they engage older workers, and importantly, help them adapt to ever changing business needs.

In our experience, developing a partnership between employer and employee which inspires and aligns individual performance to organisation success is at the heart of an effective talent strategy, firstly though, it’s essential that businesses start to overcome the traditional barriers and prejudices which are often connected to an older workforce.

Common misconceptions about mature workers include:

Older workers can have difficulty learning new skills, particularly when it comes to technology – This is perhaps the most common barrier that older workers face. Some more mature workers will be nervous about trying new things but many will welcome the opportunity to learn a new skill. In our experience of coaching thousands of people of an older age, many are absolute converts once they see the benefits of new technologies; businesses just need the time and the structure to make this happen.

Older workers might not be willing to change their ways – Priorities of older workers may be different to their younger counterparts and HR managers should be mindful of that. Some older workers require flexible hours or a shorter working week. By being flexible with these requirements, organisations can achieve a huge level of commitment and loyalty from a highly skilled workforce up to and beyond retirement age if they so choose.

They might no longer be interested in training and career development – A number of workers that have gone through our career management programmes have decided not to retire after all, or have changed career path because we were able to show them opportunities they could pursue using knowledge gained from identifying their transferrable skills and from training to align themselves to what businesses need.

It’s really important that employers consider the value that older workers bring to their business both now and in the future. Innovative businesses will look at the entire mix of skills that their staff have and see how they can be best utilised. It may even lead to the creation of a completely new role for older workers, building on the transferrable skills that are of most value to the business. Businesses should think about the type of environment that would motivate older workers and the package they can offer them.

There is no escaping the fact that the UK is an ageing nation and in the years to come, as the economy recovers and ‘baby boomers’ look to retire, the challenges of building a sustainable talent pipeline are only going to increase. Businesses have to recognise this and act now to unlock the future potential of their current workforce.