It’s official, the UK is running out of workers. In fact, 13.5 million job vacancies will need filling in the next 10 years – yet only 7 million young professionals will leave school and college. As a result of the impending labour shortage, the UK government has stepped in and urged employers to re-think their attitude towards employees in their 50s and 60s (Baby Boomers). The UK government even published a guide, Employing Older Workers, encouraging businesses to tap into this generation.
Many executives believe that older workers can be assets; however, people over the age of 50 are the least likely group to be recruited once they are out of work. What's more, less than half of the UK population are in employment the year before they are eligible for their state pensions – suggesting that few employers are actually taking active steps to embrace a mixed age workforce.
What are the benefits of hiring older workers?
The most frequently cited benefits of workers aged 50 and over include experience, reliability and the mentorship they provide younger employees:
1. Abundance of experience. You may have heard the famous Oscar Wilde quote: “With age comes wisdom.” It couldn’t be more apt in this case. Baby Boomers have decades of workplace experience and have acquired irreplaceable skills as a result. Don’t just take our word for it; according to the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP), 76 percent of employers say the “experience of workers aged 50 or over” is a primary benefit of having them in their organisation.
2. Older workers make great role models. More than 50 percent of employers value the role older workers play as mentors within the workplace. The best, high character workers from the Baby Boomer generation will pass on what they’ve learned to their less experienced counterparts. It’s not just older workers who pass on their knowledge; reverse mentoring programmes are also growing in popularity as they create collaboration and learning among all generations.
3. Loyalty. The days of staying with the same employer for most of your working life are long gone. In fact, 18-35 year-olds currently have an average tenure of 1.6 years per job. By 2020, these very same 18-35 year-olds will make up a whopping 50 percent of the workforce! However, Baby Boomers tend to stay much longer. In fact, those aged between 50 and 64 often stay in a role for an average of 13 years.
4. Communication skills. Older workers have decades of experience communicating and conveying ideas to their managers and colleagues. When they first started their careers, the World Wide Web didn’t even exist (Sir Tim Berners Lee invented it in 1989) and communication was mostly face-to-face or via the telephone. Years of going without email (simply because it hadn’t yet been invented) means that older workers have developed strong communication skills.
5. The ability to adapt and change. The workplace has changed considerably over the years, from the introduction of the Internet and artificial intelligence to changes in workplace equality – Baby Boomers have lived through all of this change and have adapted accordingly. It’s a misnomer to believe older generations are inflexible or unwilling to evolve.
How can employers attract “new” older workers?
There are a number of ways employers can best tap into the older, Baby Boomer generation of workers, including:
1. Introduce more flexible working arrangements. Many businesses have flexible working practices in place, but most are aimed at employees with young children rather than older workers who may have caring responsibilities. Part-time and flexible working can help many older workers stay in work up to their state pension age and beyond. In fact, 60 percent of over 50s say they would like to continue working after state pension age, but on a part-time basis.
2. Have a robust training and skills programme. All employees should have access to comprehensive training and career development programmes regardless of age. According to the CIPD’s UK Working Lives report, nearly half of all jobs fail to provide decent career development despite the many benefits they provide. Continuous education really does benefit both the employer and employee.
3. Launch diversity network groups. Establish a diversity network group to keep older workers engaged. This will ensure that all workers have a meaningful voice. Want quick-win ways integrate diversity and inclusion into your talent acquisition strategy? Access our tip sheet!
4. Provide retirement transition preparation. Employers should consider offering phased retirement programmes. Such initiatives benefit both the employer and the older worker as it means there will be plenty of time to handover and train (if required) replacement employees.
Hiring, retraining and retaining Baby Boomers is just one solution to overcoming the looming talent shortage. For more on the skills shortage, including five reasons for the shortage and five ways you can overcome, access our brand-new infographic!