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November 29, 2023
|
5 mins to read

Retaining older workers in the age of The Great Retirement

In this blog, we'll explore how you can make work a more attractive proposition for older workers in the age of The Great Retirement.
Alex Mullen
Web Content Writer

Older workers are incredibly valuable, bringing years of experience and knowledge to their roles. But in the age of The Great Retirement, how do you make work an attractive proposition for them?

Despite having the advantage of seniority, there’s research to show that older workers feel discriminated against in the workplace. Hays’ 2023 DEI Report found that 29% of surveyed respondents over the age of 50 said they don’t feel they have the same opportunities when it comes to succeeding in their organisation, and 55% said their age has contributed towards them losing out on a job.

How do you retain older workers, and ensure that they feel valued when society tells them otherwise?

What is The Great Retirement?

The Great Retirement (or “Silver Quitting”) is a trend that sees older workers aged 50 - 64 leaving the workforce, widely interpreted to be a reversal of the previous long-term trend of people working for much longer periods of time.

What is the cause of The Great Retirement?

So, what are the causes of The Great Retirement? What is contributing to “Silver Quitters” making a premature exit from the workforce?

Attitudes to work

Of course, the most obvious reason that people retire is simply the lack of desire to continue working. Research from Phoenix Insights confirms this, citing “I did not want to continue working” as the top reason chosen by UK survey respondents for leaving the workforce.

The same research also found negative sentiment towards work to be more prevalent in the UK than in the US or other parts of Europe. Only 58% of UK respondents said they liked their job, compared to 74% in the USA and 73% in Germany. It’s obvious that a large number of people lack passion or enthusiasm for their work - so we can’t blame them for eyeing the exit.

The COVID effect

The COVID-19 pandemic shook things up for a lot of people, and forced us to take stock of what was really important to us.

After two years (and some change) of social isolation, working from home, fluctuating rules and an awful lot of Tiger King, we had plenty of time to reflect. Is this the best place to live? The best relationship to be in? The best job? The best use of my Netflix subscription??

It comes as no surprise that COVID-19 would have a knock-on effect on the careers of older workers. Going back to the Phoenix Insights Report, 40% of respondents said the pandemic made them rethink how they view working.

There is nothing like a global pandemic to make you reflect on your own mortality, and in the wake of such a life-altering period it makes sense that older workers would want more flexibility in order to spend time with their loved ones. (More on that later.)

Economic stability

“Why work if you don’t have to?”

When it comes down to it, the main reason people work is in order to earn money. (You’re very welcome for that startling insight.)

If an older worker is economically comfortable enough to retire, why wouldn’t they? We know from the research that on the whole, people aren’t working because they’re passionate about their roles, so the only reason for them to stay would be financial.

This is also backed up by the research: Homeowners are a lot more likely to retire or reduce their hours before retirement age (72% of them, to be exact) whereas only 40% of non-homeowners planned to do so.

Health concerns

Another factor in The Great Retirement is health concerns. Older people are disproportionately at risk of ill health, and COVID-19 has caused some roadblocks when it comes to accessing healthcare.

But it might not be as big of a factor as you’d first think. The data shows that just 16% of those 50 - 64 year olds who left work since 2019 cite long-term sickness or disability as their main reason for doing so.

This means that there are other factors at play, so how can you make work a more attractive proposition?

How to retain older workers

Now that we know some of the reasons behind The Great Retirement, we can start to think about how best to value and retain our older workers when they are leaving the workforce in droves.

Invest in upskilling and reskilling

As we’ve mentioned, on the whole sentiment towards work in the UK is a negative one. This goes to show that many people don’t enjoy or feel stimulated by their jobs, so solving this problem could be the first step towards retaining older workers and making them feel valued.

By presenting employees (of all ages!) with frequent development opportunities, you make the most of their existing knowledge and expertise - and encourage them to stay. (Psst - a great way to do this is through harnessing the Skills and Goals functionality of an LMS like, say, Thrive.)

In a world of ever-evolving skills requirements, older workers might feel as though they’ve “hit the ceiling of learning” despite their existing knowledge. We’ve already debunked the myth that “learning stops after a certain age” in our blog 5 Common Myths About Learning, Debunked, and this myth may be part of what’s getting in the way when it comes to reskilling or upskilling older workers. It’s completely false that they can’t learn new skills, so it’s worth your while to invest in opportunities for them to expand.

Cultivate a culture of learning that is not only self-led, but collaborative. Open up the silos that separate the generations within your workforce, and encourage your employees to benefit from one another’s knowledge.

Not only will your business benefit, but your older workers will feel empowered to stay.

Flexible, accessible learning

Flexibility is imperative to retaining workers of all ages, but is especially relevant to older workers who tend to be disproportionately affected by health issues.

When you enable flexible schedules for all your employees, you are enabling everyone to work in the way that suits them. Even if they don’t have health issues, flexibility allows employees to spend time with their family and invest in their hobbies - therefore making them happier and more refreshed.

While we’re talking about working environments, making your business accessible for older workers is another essential step. This starts by creating a supportive culture for everyone, so that discussing - and requesting accommodations for - any health issues becomes normalised throughout the workforce. It’s been found that older workers are less likely to disclose their conditions to their employer, which impedes their ability to manage them openly. (45% of people over the age of 55 had taken no days off work in the previous six months, compared to 32% of workers aged 25-44.)

Be proactive about what your older workers might need, making adjustments in line with their individual requirements as opposed to a ‘one size fits all’ approach. People managers should be trained to have health-related discussions, with regular check-ins. (Tip: Access to Work is a government scheme that provides support to people living with health conditions or disabilities.)

Actively work to combat age-related bias

Unfortunately bias is a natural part of life, and that means it also crops up in work. Of course we should be working to mitigate all biases and discrimination within the workplace - but age-related discrimination is an oft-overlooked problem. Preventing it starts with inclusive hiring practices, and carries through to the ways in which you treat your existing employees. Provide robust anti-discrimination policies, and make sure that your hiring process is age-positive. To quote The Centre for Ageing Better:

“Employers should always use a structured interview format, with consistent set questions, and a diverse interview panel, to minimise the bias inherent in a traditional interview process – not just in terms of age, but also race, gender, disability and other characteristics.”

Through proactive measures against bias in your hiring process, you'll demonstrate to both prospective and current employees that age is not a determining factor in your decisions.

Want to learn more?

Want to learn more about how to be an inclusive employer? Thrive Content boasts a library of resources on inclusivity and allyship within the workplace. And if you’re looking to upskill and reskill your workforce, take advantage of the Skills and Goals functionality within our learning platform.

More Stories

See all

See Thrive in action

Explore what impact Thrive could make for your team and your learners today.

November 29, 2023
|
5 mins to read

Retaining older workers in the age of The Great Retirement

In this blog, we'll explore how you can make work a more attractive proposition for older workers in the age of The Great Retirement.
Alex Mullen
Web Content Writer

Older workers are incredibly valuable, bringing years of experience and knowledge to their roles. But in the age of The Great Retirement, how do you make work an attractive proposition for them?

Despite having the advantage of seniority, there’s research to show that older workers feel discriminated against in the workplace. Hays’ 2023 DEI Report found that 29% of surveyed respondents over the age of 50 said they don’t feel they have the same opportunities when it comes to succeeding in their organisation, and 55% said their age has contributed towards them losing out on a job.

How do you retain older workers, and ensure that they feel valued when society tells them otherwise?

What is The Great Retirement?

The Great Retirement (or “Silver Quitting”) is a trend that sees older workers aged 50 - 64 leaving the workforce, widely interpreted to be a reversal of the previous long-term trend of people working for much longer periods of time.

What is the cause of The Great Retirement?

So, what are the causes of The Great Retirement? What is contributing to “Silver Quitters” making a premature exit from the workforce?

Attitudes to work

Of course, the most obvious reason that people retire is simply the lack of desire to continue working. Research from Phoenix Insights confirms this, citing “I did not want to continue working” as the top reason chosen by UK survey respondents for leaving the workforce.

The same research also found negative sentiment towards work to be more prevalent in the UK than in the US or other parts of Europe. Only 58% of UK respondents said they liked their job, compared to 74% in the USA and 73% in Germany. It’s obvious that a large number of people lack passion or enthusiasm for their work - so we can’t blame them for eyeing the exit.

The COVID effect

The COVID-19 pandemic shook things up for a lot of people, and forced us to take stock of what was really important to us.

After two years (and some change) of social isolation, working from home, fluctuating rules and an awful lot of Tiger King, we had plenty of time to reflect. Is this the best place to live? The best relationship to be in? The best job? The best use of my Netflix subscription??

It comes as no surprise that COVID-19 would have a knock-on effect on the careers of older workers. Going back to the Phoenix Insights Report, 40% of respondents said the pandemic made them rethink how they view working.

There is nothing like a global pandemic to make you reflect on your own mortality, and in the wake of such a life-altering period it makes sense that older workers would want more flexibility in order to spend time with their loved ones. (More on that later.)

Economic stability

“Why work if you don’t have to?”

When it comes down to it, the main reason people work is in order to earn money. (You’re very welcome for that startling insight.)

If an older worker is economically comfortable enough to retire, why wouldn’t they? We know from the research that on the whole, people aren’t working because they’re passionate about their roles, so the only reason for them to stay would be financial.

This is also backed up by the research: Homeowners are a lot more likely to retire or reduce their hours before retirement age (72% of them, to be exact) whereas only 40% of non-homeowners planned to do so.

Health concerns

Another factor in The Great Retirement is health concerns. Older people are disproportionately at risk of ill health, and COVID-19 has caused some roadblocks when it comes to accessing healthcare.

But it might not be as big of a factor as you’d first think. The data shows that just 16% of those 50 - 64 year olds who left work since 2019 cite long-term sickness or disability as their main reason for doing so.

This means that there are other factors at play, so how can you make work a more attractive proposition?

How to retain older workers

Now that we know some of the reasons behind The Great Retirement, we can start to think about how best to value and retain our older workers when they are leaving the workforce in droves.

Invest in upskilling and reskilling

As we’ve mentioned, on the whole sentiment towards work in the UK is a negative one. This goes to show that many people don’t enjoy or feel stimulated by their jobs, so solving this problem could be the first step towards retaining older workers and making them feel valued.

By presenting employees (of all ages!) with frequent development opportunities, you make the most of their existing knowledge and expertise - and encourage them to stay. (Psst - a great way to do this is through harnessing the Skills and Goals functionality of an LMS like, say, Thrive.)

In a world of ever-evolving skills requirements, older workers might feel as though they’ve “hit the ceiling of learning” despite their existing knowledge. We’ve already debunked the myth that “learning stops after a certain age” in our blog 5 Common Myths About Learning, Debunked, and this myth may be part of what’s getting in the way when it comes to reskilling or upskilling older workers. It’s completely false that they can’t learn new skills, so it’s worth your while to invest in opportunities for them to expand.

Cultivate a culture of learning that is not only self-led, but collaborative. Open up the silos that separate the generations within your workforce, and encourage your employees to benefit from one another’s knowledge.

Not only will your business benefit, but your older workers will feel empowered to stay.

Flexible, accessible learning

Flexibility is imperative to retaining workers of all ages, but is especially relevant to older workers who tend to be disproportionately affected by health issues.

When you enable flexible schedules for all your employees, you are enabling everyone to work in the way that suits them. Even if they don’t have health issues, flexibility allows employees to spend time with their family and invest in their hobbies - therefore making them happier and more refreshed.

While we’re talking about working environments, making your business accessible for older workers is another essential step. This starts by creating a supportive culture for everyone, so that discussing - and requesting accommodations for - any health issues becomes normalised throughout the workforce. It’s been found that older workers are less likely to disclose their conditions to their employer, which impedes their ability to manage them openly. (45% of people over the age of 55 had taken no days off work in the previous six months, compared to 32% of workers aged 25-44.)

Be proactive about what your older workers might need, making adjustments in line with their individual requirements as opposed to a ‘one size fits all’ approach. People managers should be trained to have health-related discussions, with regular check-ins. (Tip: Access to Work is a government scheme that provides support to people living with health conditions or disabilities.)

Actively work to combat age-related bias

Unfortunately bias is a natural part of life, and that means it also crops up in work. Of course we should be working to mitigate all biases and discrimination within the workplace - but age-related discrimination is an oft-overlooked problem. Preventing it starts with inclusive hiring practices, and carries through to the ways in which you treat your existing employees. Provide robust anti-discrimination policies, and make sure that your hiring process is age-positive. To quote The Centre for Ageing Better:

“Employers should always use a structured interview format, with consistent set questions, and a diverse interview panel, to minimise the bias inherent in a traditional interview process – not just in terms of age, but also race, gender, disability and other characteristics.”

Through proactive measures against bias in your hiring process, you'll demonstrate to both prospective and current employees that age is not a determining factor in your decisions.

Want to learn more?

Want to learn more about how to be an inclusive employer? Thrive Content boasts a library of resources on inclusivity and allyship within the workplace. And if you’re looking to upskill and reskill your workforce, take advantage of the Skills and Goals functionality within our learning platform.

More Stories

See all

See Thrive in action

Explore what impact Thrive could make for your team and your learners today.