23rd May 2016
Our workplace demographic has changed a lot in the last 30 years. Businesses now employ more women, more people who work flexibly and more disabled people than ever before. Plus, more and more people are now working longer – contributing to a much older workforce.
Not only is the state pension age continuing to rise, better healthcare and quality of life means more people are willing and able to work beyond the time they’d normally retire. You don’t need a crystal ball to predict that these numbers will continue to rise over the next decade or two.
But even with continual advances in medical science and wellbeing, we’re only human. With increasing age comes the increased likelihood of ill-health. The savvy employer is not only thinking about how to protect their staff today, but how to protect and support them in the future.
So what can you suggest to help your clients plan ahead and create an ageing workforce strategy?
According to the Office for National Statistics, those working past state pension age are more than twice as likely to be working part-time as the general population. There are now almost 1.5 million people working beyond retirement age, with women making up more than 60%.
But research by financial services company, Hargreaves Landsdown revealed that a little under half of employers (46%) currently have no strategy in place to manage an ageing workforce, while 25% have not anticipated an increased demand for part-time work from older members of staff. Less than 1% of employers offer a retirement sabbatical – a few months off before deciding if they want to retire permanently - an idea the Department of Work and Pensions found almost a third of employees would take advantage of, if available.
The benefits of an ageing workforce strategy
Embracing a culture of ‘returnment’ rather than retirement allows and empowers employees to work for as long as they want to. Working can have a hugely beneficial effect on the wellbeing of an older member of staff - particularly those who may lack a network of family and friends.
Remaining in work allows the person to feel engaged, energised and purposeful, while retaining social contact. At the same time, the employer continues to enjoy the benefits of their expertise and key skills, often honed over years of years of service to the company. It can also allow the employee to make a smoother financial transition from full-time work, to part-time work before they finally decide to retire.
To ensure that older employees have the necessary physical and mental health to continue working means that businesses need to embrace health, wellness and fitness as part and parcel of their overall care package.
Creating an ageing workforce strategy:
1. Be and act ageless
An ageless culture means treating and rewarding each age group equally. Key performance indicators should bring all workers together, while a mindset geared to what older employers can do, rather than what they can’t, produces a positive approach.
2. Tap into wisdom and experience
While fresh ideas and new blood can help drive innovation, older employees are wellsprings of imagination, wisdom and experience. Rather than thinking of them as elders who fondly remember ‘the old days’, encouraging older members of staff to act as mentors or advisers can inspire younger members of staff and bring the knowledge of years to tackling problems, advancing ideas and helping to drive change.
3. Promote wellness
Employers need to provide greater health and wellness support to employees. Older workers are likely to need more support for physical and mental ailments than their younger colleagues, so access to healthcare providers or a proactive approach to better health can ensure employees - of all ages - stay fit.
Promoting healthy eating in the restaurant, providing regular health checks or even offering a bike to work scheme or gym access can all boost wellbeing. Online tools such as AgeingWorks are also available – providing positive ageing advice and eldercare support to employees and their families, while helping to reduce the stress and costs that ageing and later life can bring.
4. Think flexibly
A flexible approach to working hours is a must-have. YouGov’s study carried out for Engage Mutual revealed 1 in 4 people between 45 and 60 provide daily support to their parents. Cancer diagnoses and heart attacks become more prevalent as people age, the latter in people as early as 45 years old, according to the NHS. Allowing people to work flexi-time, from home, reducing hours temporarily, job-sharing or compressing the working week can all help employees balance the challenges life throws us at all.
5. Provide appropriate benefits
Offering a generic benefits package to all employees, will, no matter how well intentioned, ultimately fall short of people’s expectations. Young, new starters are unlikely to see much value in life insurance, critical illness cover or a pension. Older employees probably won’t be interested in childcare help. But benefits like Group Income Protection that come built in with access to expertise covering a range of work-life issues or rehab support to help an ill or injured employee back to work will resonate with everyone.