Are older workers overlooked
in favour of millennials?

There has been some recent discord in the employment of older workers with employers and organisations overlooking the older candidate for a younger candidate. The workforce has seen a paradigm shift in the employee proposition of a “job for life” to that of a more transient career path that the millennial experiences today. This article seeks to explore some of the contemporary issues and current perceptions or indeed misconceptions.

The Millennial generation is the first-born into the digital world, specifically the Internet and social media and has been the term coined to define those born between 1982-2004. They have seen significant changes in workforce demographics and employment conditions over the last 20 years.

With an ever-aging UK population, the labour force is also aging with older people having to work longer to ensure greater financial stability in retirement. However is retirement even now a notion for the younger millennial as they see pension ages increase and the value of pensions decrease? Before the abolishing of a retirement age, many could look forward to retirement at 60 and 65 with some levels of financial assurance for the rest of their retirement; as we know, pensions are in decline and more risky and retirement ages increasing.

It is argued that older workers are an important asset to any organisation due to their wealth of experience and diverse perspectives. In a research report by the Equality Rights Commission (2009) the majority of older workers want to continue working up to and beyond their retirement point (some for financial reasons, others for enjoyment), and many wish to continue developing in their careers. Many older workers would also appreciate opportunities to change not only their jobs but also their occupations, to try something new.

But what of the barriers to older people in the workplace? With age come families, caring responsibilities and health issues sometimes negatively considered as factors that would be detrimental to successful employment. However, the introduction of flexible working and more family friendly policies could have a profound implication on this damaging perception. Flexible working offers greater ability for older workers to agree compressed hours or term time working etc to care for younger grand children and maybe sick partners. Never has there been a time for workers and employers to reap the benefits of these flexible-working arrangements.

Is your employer sensitive to your health needs? Poor health is one of the key determinants of premature labour market exit and finding solutions to help people with health problems remain in work should be a key priority. Many older people in poor health continue working, but can struggle with inflexible working arrangements. In addition, many of the older unemployed with health conditions claimed they would return to work if the terms and conditions were right. Therefore there is a significant business case for HR to get this right and find inclusive strategies to improve retention of older workers.

The CIPD (2016) have cited training a key proponent for developing an age diverse workforce, ensuring a process is in place to up-skill and where necessary re-skill the workforce. Organisations remain sensitive to the external environment and thus act accordingly, therefore workers of all ages should ensure their skills match the jobs, and if not undertake the relevant training to remain abreast of employment needs. Candidates need to remain employable as the requirement to hunt out the infamous ‘talent’ is waning in what is growingly becoming a candidate driven job market.

This article could cover so much more on the issues, however it has sought to highlight some of the barriers and potential solutions on offer to overcome the employment of the older workforce, including in particular flexible working. Traditional employment such as ‘a job for life’ is diminishing, as up-skilling and re-training become important in a technological dominant environment which requires workers to carry out the key functions to support the business. Older workers are not phased by the challenges and research suggest they embrace the challenges ahead, however we as employers must provide the right working culture and environment to support this experience and knowledge long into the future.

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Written by - Nick Carter,
Owner/Director – Carter James Consulting

Date - 18/08/2017