Older workers

Valuing older workers in your business

Depending on your definition of older workers, by 2020 there will be more people in their 50s than in their 40s meaning that those over the age of 50 will be filling more of the job vacancies in the next decade. The UK labour market is expecting to see a considerable shift within the next 10 years, with projections suggesting that there will be 700,000 fewer people aged 16 – 49 but an increase of around 3.7m of those between 50 and state pension age.

What does this mean for recruiters?

The knock on effect for recruiters and the recruitment industry is that they can expect more applications from older workers, bringing with them a wide range of benefits. Whereas 10 years ago the issue of IT skills may have been a problem, this is no longer the case. Indeed people in their 50s will have grown with the digital age, well placed to have been at the forefront of major changes and fully conversant with developments in technology.

With life expectancy ever rising, helping the over 50’s stay in and return to work has a major part to play in helping the standard of living to remain at an optimum level in retirement.

What are the benefits of employing older workers?

Candidates will be quick to highlight the qualities they can bring to any particular position but what points might you expect them to raise? Here’s a selection –

  • Reliability and motivation – Tests carried out in 2013 by the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin suggested that workers aged over 65 were more productive and more reliable than much younger counterparts. Results were attributed to older workers having a consistently higher level of motivation, a balanced routine and a stable mood.
  • Dedication, punctuality and flexibility – Punctuality seems to be a given for older workers. Most seem to actively look forward to going to work so are more likely to arrive on time. They also appear to be less fazed by an enforced or temporary change in routine, possessing greater ability to take things in their stride than younger staff.
  • Skills, knowledge, experience – Almost by design the breadth of skills and knowledge of an older worker will surpass those of a younger colleague through experience alone. They will find it easier to adapt if other areas need covering at short notice or relying on experience to help to deal with customer relations issues.
  • Maturity and confidence – Older workers generally don’t lack the confidence to share ideas upwards or to take responsibility for a given situation. Maturity will often mean that older staff are less flustered when faced with problems or issues.
  • Organisational skills – The ability to prioritise workloads seems to come easier to more mature workers meaning more effective ‘man hours’ are worked.
  • Communication skills – Knowing when and how to communicate only evolves through years of life and workplace experience. Older workers are generally more diplomatic and understanding of workplace politics.
  • Mentoring, knowledge sharing and setting an example – Older workers generally take pride in a job well done so will naturally set a good example to younger counterparts. They can help with training issues, often without knowing that they’re doing it, and act as mentors or role models to other staff.
  • Reduced staff turnover – Generally annual staff turnover for older employees runs at 4% rather than 10% for younger workers. Recruits in their 50s and 60s will, on average, remain with a company for 13 years. The knock on effect of this is a further saving in recruitment and training costs.
  • Less sickness absence – Research shows that older workers generally have fewer short-term absences than younger counterparts. Some companies report that absenteeism amongst older workers is 39% lower than those younger.

The future’s bright…

The next decade may well prove to be the one where, from a recruitment point of view at least, many of the stereotypes about older workers get kicked well and truly into touch. A good workplace age balance is certainly something to work towards, the difficulty may be finding the younger candidates able to competitively step up to the plate