An ageing workforce brings both challenges and opportunities to employers. The well-trodden route of education-work-retirement is beginning to crumble, especially as life expectancy in the UK continues to rise (ONS).
Pension pots, whether they be a workplace pension or private pension, are now required to cover more retirement years than previously.
For many people, an insufficient pension pot will mean a move away from “cliff-edge” retirement in order to continue generating income and sustain lifestyle choices.
With nearly ten million workers aged 50 and over now in employment, SMEs will see more older employees continue to work for longer, which will mean that business owners will need to equip themselves and their ageing workforce for extended working lives.
But what does this mean for small business owners? With a change in the in the “jobs for life” culture, many businesses are instead introducing a gradual system of flexible working and part-time roles for those over 65.
It’s important for small businesses to understand the impact of an ageing workforce, whilst developing and integrating practices which can increase productivity and harness the skills and knowledge that older employees bring to the table.
Long-term workers are a great assets to small businesses for a variety of reasons. Not only do they offer a wealth of expertise and experience which means they’re ideally placed to mentor younger team members.
Research has also shown that they can have lower absenteeism, lower turnover and also have a better work ethic compared to their millennial counterparts.
For small businesses pairing older and younger workers can be a valuable exercise which offers strong business advantages. As both sets of employees are at such different life stages, they tend to view each other more as part of the same team, rather than competition.
Striking this balance within the organisation can lead to a more cohesive team and also one which is more productive.
According to the CIPD report “Managing a Healthy Ageing Workforce – A Business Imperative,” it is predicted that over the next ten years employers will have to fill an estimated 13.5 million vacancies.
With the Default Retirement Age, which was 65 for most people coming to an end, many of these vacancies will be filled by older workers.
Long-term workers provide many benefits for SMEs and tapping into these individuals’ knowledge, expertise and strong networks can help the business continue to remain agile.
However, business owners will need to factor in arrangements that provide older workers with the ability to request flexible working hours which not only benefit the employee but also the business.
Helping older workers to stay in work for longer, by allowing them to work flexibly or to phase their retirement, can help to:
- Retain skills and experience longer
- Manage succession through mentoring of new recruits
- Match productivity to periods of peak demand
- Extend periods of customer service
- Keep semi-retired skilled workers on call
The role of technology
With such a wide range of collaboration technologies available, SMEs are able to take advantage of the technologies that work best for them and help manage their employees more effectively.
Flexible working is often touted as something more suitable for larger companies, however, SMEs are well positioned to benefit from productivity tools as they are generally more agile and innovative than their larger counterparts.
While traditional thinking expects older workers to have trouble adapting to new technologies, the idea is nothing more than a stereotype. The skills of workers across the country are continually outpaced by technological advancements, regardless of age or position.
So when introducing new technology into any organisation, it’s imperative to have effective training and support in place so that the best rates of adoption are achieved.
The use of workplace champions, including older workers can be an effective way to promote changes and highlight different way of working across the business.
It’s no secret that flexible working has the ability to boost productivity and staff morale and for many SMEs it can help retain the best talent as the business grows. Addressing the issues that employees face and providing different working solutions will only help attract and retain the right people.
For many small businesses, it regularly comes back to creating a business case for flexible working and having a clear reason for doing it. It’s important to implement a solution which aligns with how the business operates – one size doesn’t fit all.
Managed right, it will benefit both the business and employee, especially for the ageing workforce as it gives them the opportunity to consult on areas of expertise. Allowing them to providing valuable insight into the medium-to-long term challenges and opportunities facing the business.
Stephen Duignan, VP of international at LogMeIn