According to DWP data, 18 per cent of affluent 50 - 64 years olds are missing from the workforce, making them ‘economically inactive’.
This is bad news for the economy and perhaps even worse news for our workplaces. Losing the insight and input of our most experienced people is something that we should try to avoid at all costs; the richness and diversity of our workplace depends on it.
Here’s our view on what you can do to retain your most experienced employees:
No one left behind
We’re not suggesting that older employees are out of touch, but it would be remiss of us not to acknowledge how much the world of work has changed - especially in the last decade or so.
It’s easy to assume that if we hear no voices of dissent then all is well but, how well do you really know your older employees? Are they fully on-board with the direction the organisation is taking with regards to working patterns and use of technology? There’s no need to take a step backwards, more, slow the pace slightly to make sure everyone can catch up (and understands why they need to).
Not everything is about age - many younger people find hybrid working and streamlined, tech first processes challenging. So, creating an opportunity for people to share ‘unpopular’ views could be in the best interest of more people than you think. Don’t forget that even people in their late 30’s and 40’s started work when things were very, ahem, different.
Acknowledging generational differences at work can be daunting. It’s no longer the case that younger employees know less than their older colleagues. In some cases, they may know more about how to create communities, reach potential customers and innovate.
Reverse mentoring - where a younger employee mentors a more senior employee - is a brilliant way to foster collaboration and encourage knowledge sharing across generations. It helps to engage older employees with future strategies and helps more junior employees feel heard. It can also be used to support DEI activities in your organisation.
Connection to peers
It’s lonely at the top.
Many of the people in that 18 per cent are senior leaders. When you get to that level, the pressure is intense and the support is minimal. There’s only so much training and coaching you can do and, if you’re hoping to retire at some point, then traditional development interventions can feel like going through the motions.
Of course we can always learn something new but when you have a lot of experience behind you then talking to someone with a similar level of responsibility, at a similar point in their career, can be extremely gratifying. Relationships like this make us feel supported, safe and valued… all great reasons to stay in employment.
Because of an outspoken minority, it is often assumed that older employees don’t want or need flexible working. This is not true. In fact, The Centre for Ageing Better found that 78% of the people over 50 that they interviewed, wanted more flexibility at work.
Flexible working allows people to keep contributing to their organisation even if they are unable to get into the office as regularly as they would like - due to caring responsibilities or health issues.
Most of the 18 per cent of affluent workers leaving did not do so because of ill health. But, offering more flexibility could mean that work could enhance a more balanced lifestyle rather than be seen to be getting in the way of it.
Where’s the value?
Work is always future focused, but we should never forget how the past informs the present. To state the obvious, people who have worked for longer have more experience to draw from. This experience doesn’t make them sage or better decision makers by default! But, they do have a perspective that needs hearing.
Finally, let’s not forget the obvious - life does not stop once you get to 50 and ‘people over 50’ is by no means a distinct category! We're pretty sure some of our brilliant former colleagues in their 60’s will have a VERY different perspective to those in their 80's or 90's...
The bottom line is this: when we think of inclusivity, we should consider age and experience too. Just because someone is in a senior role or nearing retirement, does not mean they should be assumed MIA already. If we cut people out of the conversation, they will feel more compelled to leave work early and then we’ve got a problem…
'The Great Unretirement is coming', Camilla Cavendish, FT
The article that inspired this post - a stark look at the impact of 18% of over 50's becoming economically inactive.
'What are the benefits of flexible working?', The Centre for Ageing better
A look at research the supports flexible working for people over 50.
A guide to helping employers navigate the support of an ageing workforce.
Oh look, we wrote something about how to embrace the age diversity in today's workplace!