HR & Management

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Are companies meeting the needs of an ageing workforce?

5 Mins

It is rare for a government initiative to be of direct relevance to almost every business in the UK. However, with recent changes to the retirement age and pension payouts, businesses need to starting thinking about and dealing with an ageing workforce. 

By 2028, employees will be working until they reach 67. This gradual shift in employee demographics over the next decade must therefore be a catalyst for businesses to rethink their training solutions and budget allocation when dealing with those that work well into their 60s.

However, our own research, conducted by Opinion Matters, discovered that 92 per cent of UK CEOs do not currently invest in training and development for those employees over the age of 60. With the realisation that these workers will be on the pay roll for longer, businesses can no longer get away with not training this generation and risk a wider skills gap emerging. Instead of ignoring these issues, businesses need to be considering how to keep older staff motivated and continue to get the most out of this valuable resource.

Failing a generation

Many businesses are limiting themselves by not developing the over 60s. It is true to say that, unlike younger workers, there can be the tendency for the over 60s to require more time off, whether it be to look after grandchildren or meet other commitments. With years of experience, however, they are committed, willing, hard-working and diligent – all the attributes that business leaders, in all sectors, are after. However, as our research proved, businesses are not investing in the over 60s as they are not providing them with opportunities to develop and expand their knowledge.

It is this stereotypical view of older workers that is holding individuals, and ultimately, businesses, back. The over 60s have much to offer and can be vital in mentoring the younger generation. Younger workers have the enthusiasm and desire to learn, but they do not have the experience to guide themselves through the minefield which is the workplace. Instead of limiting their abilities, businesses should be looking to capitalise on what the over 60s have to offer and share their knowledge with those who do not have the same levels of experience. Ultimately, business leaders who change their stereotypical attitudes towards mature employees and invest more time in their development will really start to reap the benefits.

Investing in older workers

As well as using the older workers to educate those around them, it is also important to develop their skills. The younger generation is much more au fait with all things digital and older workers will need training to stay up-to-date in this and other emerging technologies. The government has recently suggested that businesses should send their over 60 workers back to university to retrain, which is an interesting proposition, but is it the most realistic way of up-skilling older workers?

As I have mentioned, older workers already possess many of the skills businesses are looking for. By taking the lead and encouraging older workers to enhance their skill set by offering both a job and training in one package, as they do for the younger generation, businesses will be well placed for long term prosperity.

It is encouraging to see that the government is starting to initiate programmes that are aimed at enhancing the over 60s’ working life and it is time for businesses to take notes and stop ignoring this valuable part of its workforce. If forgotten and not given the appropriate training, it will be businesses that miss out on this untapped resource that is the experienced and loyal worker.

Kevin Young is managing director of Skillsoft EMEA.

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