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How to recruit and retain more experienced workers in 2023

The number of working-age adults who have left the labour market has risen by 830,000 since the start of the pandemic. Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Labour Force Survey figures suggest that by mid-2022, the number of economically inactive people aged 50 to 64 grew by 386,000 since early 2020. Reasons include job losses and early retirement.

Many believe this is a contributor to the current skills shortage and the UK’s economic stagnation. Their absence from workplaces represents a loss of experience, talent, and economic potential. A shrinking of the workforce is bad for growth.

It is an industry-wide issue, from tech to financial services. The insurer, AXA, has seen a 30% decline in workers over 50 in its UK business over the past two years. So much so, that recruiting and retaining this older generation of workers is a key part of the company’s people strategy.

Benefits of employing and retaining experienced workers

There are countless reasons why employers benefit from older workers. Their expertise and experience can boost productivity and support those new to the workplace.

Having spent decades in the industry, baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) have skills, values, and knowledge that are important in many professional services roles.

HR teams often say that older workers show a stronger work ethic and are more loyal. Older workers tend to stay in jobs longer, reducing employee turnover and recruitment costs. Moreover, the Centre for Ageing Better findings show that older employees are no more likely than younger workers to take sick leave.

Experienced workers can be more pragmatic and empathetic, too. Due to their years of experience managing client and internal stakeholder relationships, more experienced workers tend to have:

  • strong problem-solving
  • good decision-making skills
  • crisis management skills
  • negotiating skills
  • active listening skills

Strategies for retaining older workers

One way to keep older workers engaged and contributing at a high level is to offer them opportunities to develop their skills, including attaining professional qualifications. Upskilling talent across all generations helps organisations become future-ready. Older employees could be a key source of competitive advantage as they continue to upgrade their skills for a digital future.

Retention initiatives

The Prince’s Responsible Business Network report highlights that insurer Aviva has taken steps to cater to the needs of its ageing workforce. In 2016, they introduced a midlife career review for managers over 50 to better understand their needs and aspirations. 

Employers may need to look at part-time options and phased retirement plans for staff.

Reverse mentoring

In 2014, AXA launched a reverse mentoring program where younger professionals helped senior leaders up their game on social media. Companies can ask boomers to mentor millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and Gen Z employees (born between 1997 and 2010), sharing their organisational knowledge and skills with younger employees.

Attracting mature talent

Ageism happens in the workplace. It may be unconscious or cultural, but age stereotypes happen in all sectors. Older workers who lose their jobs are more likely to slip into long-term unemployment, with those over 50 who are unemployed twice as likely to be out of work for a year as younger workers.

Creating an age-positive culture is vital for an employer brand. Diversity training can help break age-based stereotypes and create trust and respect.

Encouraging applications from older workers

Many people in their 50s to 70s are adding another chapter to their careers, and businesses could make the most of this skills source. Analysis of Labour Force Survey figures by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggests there are now almost one million economically inactive people aged between 50 and 64 who want to work. But how do you attract an older workforce?

Use data analytics in the hiring process

Data analytics can enhance an employer's understanding of the skills, behaviours, motivation, and workstyle preferences that older candidates and employees have. These can be mapped to vacancies and together hiring managers and businesses can see who is the right fit for the business in terms of skills and culture, removing age bias from the process.

The recruitment process

An important step an employer can take to become more age-friendly is to instil a culture that rejects ageism from the start. This starts with age-neutral recruitment. Age-neutral language is important in recruitment campaigns and advertising as there are words and phrases that deter older workers. Certain terminology could also prompt claims of age discrimination. Where possible, avoid:

  • Energetic/Dynamic
  • Mature/Young/Experienced
  • Digital native
  • School-leaver
  • Recent graduate

A level-playing field

Blind screening (removing dates of birth and education) can help hiring managers view candidates without age bias. A blanket requirement for candidates to hold degrees may exclude people aged 50 plus who are less likely to have had the opportunity to attend university.

Creating opportunity

Barclays is increasing the number of workers aged 50 plus. The bank has launched many initiatives, including its apprenticeship programme (the same graduates apply for), to attract older workers looking to return to work or change careers.

Flexible working

In 2022, the CIPD campaigned for the right to request flexible working from day one of employment. Implementing flexible working benefits all employees and employers should do more to support workers with caring commitments.

Moving forward

At the end of the day, all employees, regardless of age, seek meaningful work and flexibility. In 2023, employers will find it increasingly difficult to fill vacancies unless they attract experienced workers, and more employers are realising this. Efforts are being made in sectors usually associated with younger workers, including finance and technology.

With the retirement age increasing and people working into their 60s the needs of older workers are becoming more important. In the short term, the actions of individual employers will make the most difference.

If you’re looking to attract older workers to your organisation, contact Meraki Talent.

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