The second act: supporting your over 50s employees

As our Working Lives report finds more businesses supporting their older workers, we look behind the curtain to find the benefits.

While you may chomp on snacks or stretch your legs during intermission at the theatre, the actors are busy reinvigorating themselves for the next act.

Similarly, behind the curtain for some over 50 employees who are thinking about their future, there’s a reimagining of working life. And some employers are helping to build these relationships as their employees shift into the next stages of life.

With three quarters (76%) of employers believing it’s important to keep employees aged over 50, based on our Working Lives report, and almost a third (32%) saying it’s very important, it may be time to peak behind the scenes with older workers.[1]Footnote 1

“Over 10.4 million older workers,” says the Chartered Institute for Professional Development (CIPD), “account for close to a third (32.6%) of the workforce. There are more than 1.2 million workers over the age of 65.”[2]Footnote 2

As this figure will continue to build in the coming years, businesses may look to explore how this will impact on their growth.

3 benefits of age-diverse teams     

Beyond some brilliantly rare pop culture references, there’s much that older employees may offer their workplace.

  1. Skills and knowledge – a team made of different ages, including 50 plus, have a range of skills, knowledge, experience, and perspectives to offer. And when there’s a problem or challenge to solve, a breadth of diversity can be empowering.

    This may look like some generations are taking the lead with social media and technology while other generations offer solutions based in leadership and team communication. But people of all ages use technology and social media, so it’s important to have a good mix of ages learning and playing with them at work. For certain skills and knowledge, age is either subjective or irrelevant – it’s more about experience, agility (mental, emotional, social), and ability to share.

    For businesses, it’s about keeping all this experience within teams, not just with one or a few people. Employees of different ages sharing knowledge means there’s less risk that the business losses this information if that person leaves; instead, passing those skills and knowledge around could lead to greater success across the business. [3]Footnote 3
  2. Increasing productivity – having more workers aged 50 and over can help businesses become more productive. Having 10% more older workers than an average company (i.e. 24% instead of 22%) could give a one-off boost that’s worth a bit more than one year of growth. [4]Footnote 4
  3. Lower turnover and higher stability – Older workers, often seen to be more loyal, may give a sense of continuity or stability to a business. This may be because their long career allowed them to find the job or company that fits them best or because they’ve built a home and life in a community that they’re less willing to leave. By being less likely to leave the company themselves, they may help create a company culture that encourages staying.

    Encouraging positive relationships between younger and older employees could also lower turnover, or people leaving the business. Companies that have 10% more older workers than the average have 4% lower turnover, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).[4]Footnote 4

“Employees over 50 can be a valuable asset to an organisation, bringing a breadth of experience and skills,” says Aviva’s Wellbeing Lead Debbie Bullock, “It is important they are supported by employers in a way that recognises their individual needs.”

For some 50 and over employees, who are readying for the next scene, they may look to their employer for support.

3 ways to strengthen your over 50’s workforce 

Our Working Lives report found that one in ten (10%) employers, in the past 12 months, brought in new ways to support their over 50s employees. [1]Footnote 1  It may be that you’ve chatted with some over 50s employees, but you’re not sure how to best support them in your business. Or it may be that you’re finding ways to keep and recruit older workers, but you’re not sure what these steps may look like. Here are three ways to get started: [1]Footnote 1

  1. Flexibility and communication – creating an environment that prioritises employees’ sense of safety is foundational to a strong workplace. Having psychological safety at work means that employees feel comfortable, and there’s an open-door policy with managers or senior leaders. This could encourage over 50 employees to chat about how they see their future working life. And how they may want to redefine their relationship with work as they become older.

    As mature workers are more likely to value flexibility and want to work fewer hours than their younger colleagues, often because of caring responsibilities, reviewing the range of flexible working options on offer could lead to attracting and keeping workers as they get older. [2]Footnote 2
  2. Health and wellbeing – older workers are more likely to be affected by health problems as they age with more than half of workers having long-term health conditions by the time they reach 60.  Making sure these workers have access to programmes or groups that focus on their physical wellbeing, like lunchtime yoga or Pilates, and mental wellbeing (like meditation or mindfulness classes) could encourage a more positive relationship with work.

    But it’s also about helping your younger employees now for a stronger workforce in the future. Helping employees in their 20s or 30s for instance, who suffer from backpain or musculoskeletal problems, get access to occupational health could reduce the chance of these conditions becoming chronic.

    Reviewing your workplace benefits for ways to support employees’ mental, emotional, and physical health throughout their working lives could mean they enjoy a healthy, active life as they get older.
  3. Recruitment and training – whether recruiting new members to the team (internally or externally) or training on the job, it must be clear that all ages are encouraged.

"Employers,” says Debbie “should be mindful of assumptions that older workers are less likely to be interested in training, development opportunities or career progression. As technology continually changes, workers may need to keep up through different stages of their career. Mature workers may need to reskill or upskill, explore apprenticeship programs, or have a mid-life MOT to find their next steps – and they will likely look for support through their leadership team. But the point is to meet them at their individual needs."

Helping over 50s employees behind the curtains could lead to a dazzling performance in their second half of working life.

To find out more about the changes in perspectives on work, download our latest Working Lives report.

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