How to 'tap into' a great asset: your older employee The minister went on to say that demographics would sort out the problem of an ageist attitude among employers. He predicted that UK companies would have 13.5m vacancies in the next decade but there would be major shortfall, with just half that number of young people leaving school or college. In the future there would be many jobs where employers needed experienced, older workers and a company that didn’t change its attitude to older workers would be left behind.
So, how do you keep hold of your better talent who just happen to be older workers? Here is our guide:
1. Shift your ‘culture’
With an ageing workforce, there needs to be a culture shift in how managers and employees view ‘older people’ generally – particularly in as far as it affects the organisation and the contribution these people have to the workplace. Naturally, many will be looking for part-time work but they may be more flexible than employees with young children[i].
2. Redefine ‘retirement’
You know there is no longer a default retirement age so recognise different people will want to leave work at different ages, many will want a gradual wind down rather than switch-off.
Of course, there is only one sort – self motivation. So, get to understand what it is that keeps your people motivated. Wake up and smell the coffee on this one: for knowledge workers who do cognitive work it is self-direction (control over how / when we work), mastery (our desire to get good at stuff) and sense of purpose (doing something worthwhile – beyond making the shareholders a shed-full).
Linked to motivation of course, for all employees throughout their working lives – and the older person today – retraining will be mandatory to maintain employability; tomorrow’s worker may have more than one ‘career’ and will work for many more organisations. And it is cheaper to invest in training: it is cheaper than ignorance and less than paying to recruit someone with the skills you need. Remember, people in their 50’s and 60’s (possibly released from family ties) may be interested in re-learning, and anyway, will still perform better if you invest in their careers – and older people are less likely to change jobs, too.
Helping all employees to develop the confidence to face the challenges of new technology and changing working practices will be necessary to provide financial security, maintain intellectual capacity and physical well-being into the latter parts of a century life span. In this respect, the young can help the old and vice–versa. Have you thought of a mentoring scheme to develop tomorrow’s talent?
6. Revise the job descriptions
Given key skill shortages looming your best option might be ‘retention’ rather than ‘retire-recruit’ which means that you might revise your ‘people specifications’ and ‘job descriptions’. So, get some decent HR advice if you need it.
7. All change please
OK, few vote for change; it is a natural reaction to resist it. You may need to learn how to be a champion for change; it will be an essential management skill if you are going to offer a changing role to suit the talents of what you’ve got (within reason) to get the best you’re your people. Some may want a side-ways step or down-step so you may be able to draw on that talent rather than have to retire it.
8. Be open – be ready to flex
This will be better than ‘resist’ or ‘bend and break’! Flexi-time and part-time may help you and your people to delivery better client service. Remote working may also help some, too. So, is your IT strategy in-step with work that can meet client demands?
9. Revise the reward systems
Do you reward success? Make sure people realize that you reward on results, not just what they bring in terms of knowledge, experience, or years at the desk. Flexible benefits work well here.
10. And finally
Your call– are you saying, ‘we can teach an old dog new tricks’ or ‘is it the clock or decanter?’
Organisations that respond appropriately to the challenges of an ageing workforce will gain a significant competitive edge, both in terms of recruiting and retaining talent, but also through supporting the well-being and engagement of employees of all ages. The business case for older workers is strong and research shows their impact and experience within the organisation enables better client service, enhanced knowledge retention and can help to address talent and skills shortages. All of this will help to guard against potential age discrimination claims, thereby mitigating damage to the firm’s brand and any associated costs. With the removal of the Default Retirement Age last October, employers are freed up to adapt their workforce to the labour needs of the market.
[i] From Mackay, A. (2007) Recruiting, Retaining, and Releasing People Butterworth Heinemann / Elsevier
Mac Mackay Author of ‘Recruiting, Retaining, and Releasing People’ published by Butterworth Heinemann / Elsevier Managing Director DAW Ltd