Why your ageing workforce is an asset not an issue

Samantha Rutter

By Samantha Rutter, chief executive of the Open Study College, based at Birmingham Business Park.

The UK economy is faced with many challenges; Brexit being a particularly poignant issue that is dominating the news, and rightly so. But what about the other challenges that tend to be overshadowed by the ‘bigger issues’? It’s time to start talking about the UK’s ageing workforce and how employers can adapt to support their careers.

A report from the Centre of Ageing Better (2018) discovered that the over 50s now make up almost a third of the workforce in the UK, with numbers set to rise over the coming years. When questioned about their preparations for an ageing workforce, almost a quarter of employers admitted that they were completely unprepared for the challenge. This isn’t an overnight occurrence, so it is surprising to read that many workplaces have no plan of action when it comes to helping their ageing workforce to thrive.

An ageing workforce hasn’t stemmed solely from the fact that people are now living longer, but also from their need to continue to work and maintain a sufficient income that allows them to survive. Unfortunately, this is the result of pensions no longer being as lucrative as they once were. That, on top of the rising cost of living, means people in their 40s and 50s are not as prepared for retirement as the previous generation.

Individuals who fall into the ageing workforce bracket have an impressive breadth of experience and expertise that you, as an employer, can and should continue to utilise. But, to do this effectively, you need to take proactive steps to prepare your business. It may be helpful to think of it in a similar way to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. On the first tier, you need to address their essential needs such as private healthcare programmes, an enhanced pension scheme and a secure wage. The second tier focuses on offering additional training; enabling them to take advantage of training schemes that either refresh their knowledge or learn something new in order to continue to thrive in their employment and keep their minds healthy. The third and final tier recognises the employee’s experience and abilities and rewards them for it; offering variety to keep them interested and opportunities for progression if this is of interest to the individual.

By investing in your ageing workforce, and providing them with the necessities, the training and the rewards they need to excel in their careers, it allows you to continue to cultivate your workforce; demonstrating that you recognise they are a valuable asset to your business.