Current employment trends reveal an ageing workforce, with a third of workers aged 50 or over. It's more important than ever to ensure that employment practice is age inclusive.
Creating environments that encourage and retain the employment of both younger and older workers is crucial to developing truly diverse organisations, with the range of skills and experience needed to thrive. In May, we had a Supporters Network Event on Age Friendly Workplaces, where we explored inclusive recruitment processes, and the business benefits of a diverse workforce.
This blog summarises key takeaways from the event, with more information to be found in the full recording and resource list available at the end. This event was held in partnership with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, who produced a specialised Age-Friendly toolkit available in our resource links.
The impact of the pandemic on the ageing workforce:
Since the lockdown, older workers have fared less well than other groups. A significant amount have left the labour market, and less than half of over 50’s claim they are likely to return to work.
Also, as a result of the pandemic, working environments and styles have changed – with the rise of hybrid working, changing how, when, and where we work moving forward. These changes provide both advantages and disadvantages to older workers, a greater reliance on digital skills may be exclusionary to some, however the hybrid model of working provides the flexibility that is often desired by this group.
For example, ONS statistics show that of the over 50’s who would consider returning to work, 36% suggested that flexible working was the most important aspect of choosing a new job, and 18% expressed the desire to work from home. It’s important that employers tap into this pool of older workers, who, given the right conditions would re-join the labour market and provide much needed skills and experience.
Positives of an age-diverse workplace:
There are significant benefits to employers adopting an age-friendly approach. Age diversity helps to match the profile of a broad customer range – with a mix of younger and older workers providing the needed skills to support the diverse needs of customers.
These skills can also be used by colleagues to support each other – with mentorship opportunities between older and younger workers providing a vastly beneficial exchange of knowledge. Older workers can provide their range of life experience, and past knowledge of problem solving to the job, whereas younger workers can provide a fresh and new perspective that can facilitate positive change.
What is age-friendly recruitment practice?
Age Friendly Recruitment practice is about recruiting more openly and extending your talent pool more widely. One approach is to be very clear in a job description exactly what is on offer. Does your organisation offer flexible work, and if so, what does this look like? Is this location-based flex, time-based flex? Is this open to negotiation with employees? Being clear in the flexible work offer creates a more inclusive approach – where those with caring responsibilities, or additional adjustments may seek the flexibility stated in the job advertisement.
This applies more broadly to the general population of applicants too – with 9 out of 10 workers in Greater Manchester wanting flexible working, but only 3 in 10 job adverts being advertised as having flexible working options.
It’s important to take any age-specific language out of the job advertisement, for example, references in apprenticeship job descriptions to young people. Taking age labels out of job descriptions will ensure a broader pool of applicants and will encourage, in this example, older workers to consider an apprenticeship and the opportunity to reskill.
Where possible, it’s also important to try and anonymise the recruitment process. Blind CV’s can help to achieve this; however, they can be tricky in practice. Even if age is not listed, for example, the overall length of a CV could be a clear indicator of age. Where possible, steps should be taken to remove this personal data from the initial application stage – whether this be through an approach to blind CVs, or an alternative form of entry e.g., an application form.
What does an age-inclusive working environment mean?
An age-positive workplace culture is crucial when looking to become a more age-friendly employer. This applies to many of the Good Employment Charter characteristics – for example when looking to health and wellbeing support, an age-inclusive employer will recognise that older workers may require additional health support options. Whilst it’s important that conversations are had to determine each and every worker’s individual circumstance, for example being clearer in health and wellbeing initiatives may make older workers feel more comfortable being open on the topic.
Relevant to People Management, managers need to be sufficiently trained to handle these conversations appropriately. It’s crucial that managers onboard younger workers in a way in which they feel comfortable and supported, and conversely that managers don’t overlook older workers when career development opportunities arise. Relevant to the previous point, managers that are confident to speak to workers about health conditions and reasonable adjustments are managers that can successfully support a diverse range of employees.
Flexible work needs to be embedded within this culture, with options to work around caring responsibilities or health obligations being a benefit to all workers who need it. And underpinning all of this is Employee Voice and Engagement. No two people will need the exact same things, whether younger or older. Have conversations with your employees about what they need – and where possible offer colleagues the opportunity to share with others and contribute towards future changes in the organisation. Collecting these insights will lead to a development of this culture, and an overall strengthening of the age-friendly environment.
The final piece of advice in this webinar was: do something. Whether this is a big, organisational change, or simply diversifying the images your company uses to recruit – these all make a positive difference and embed a more age-friendly attitude moving forward.
- Jay McKenna, Regional Secretary at TUC
- Kim Chaplain, Specialist Advisor for Work at Centre for Ageing Better
- Cheryl Lontton, Diversity & Inclusion Manager at Electricity North West
- Presentation Slide Deck and Video Recording
- GMCA: Age Friendly Toolkit
- The Centre for Ageing Better: Becoming an Age-Friendly Employer Guide and Image Library
- Electricity North West: Age Friendly Workplace Video
- ONS: Statistics for over 50’s leaving the workforce since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic