HR & Management

How employers can accommodate an ageing workforce

3 min read

17 February 2014

Businesses are increasingly showing a positive attitude to employing older workers, despite having to make more allowances for them, according to a new report.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) survey, ‘Is 75 the new 65?: Rising to the challenge of Ageing on Workforce’, found that the number of people working at the age of 60 and above is expected to gradually rise by 13 per cent in the next six years, with employers becoming more welcoming of the skills older staff have to offer.

John Ball, UK head of pensions at Towers Watson, said: “An ageing workforce creates significant challenges for organisations. But few UK employers report negative attitudes towards older workers. Only 13 per cent say older workers are less productive than younger workers; only 16 per cent say they are less motivated, and only 24 per cent say they take more time off sick.”

Acording to the EIU report, there are a few changes employers can make to help over 60-year-olds adapt to the current job market:

A flexible future

By 2020, almost half of all employers will implement changes to ensure that the skills of older employees will stay up to date, as well as ensure that older workers with reduced working hours will continue to feel valued and retain their status. 

An ‘inclusive’ talent management strategy

Employers should make the best out of anybody’s talent, regardless of the person’s age. The largest insurance provider in the Netherlands, Achmea, implemented a project called Silver Pool, which offered temporary, flexible contracts to those over 57 who had knowledge and experience it might otherwise lose.

Simple changes

BMW is one of the companies that has experimented with talent management practices and has shown that simple changes can make a great difference. It worked with managers and ergonomists to design and build an assembly line that was more suited to older staff. Simple changes such as wooden flooring, easier on the workers’ joints, resulted in significant improvement for employees. 

Changing the work, not the people

“The crucial issue is that we have to adapt work—if older people have to do their work in the same way as other people, without using their strengths and experiences, then their work ethic will decline,” says Juhani Ilmarinen, a Finnish academic and a global expert on the need for companies to adapt to workforce ageing.

Rethinking retirement

Increased life expectancy alongside stressed public finances means that traditional retirement is becoming untenable. Employers need their employees to work longer, thus a new retirement model should be implemented.

Happy, healthy workers

Companies will have to adapt employment practices and benefit schemes to the likes of their employees, as happier, healthier workers will also benefit businesses.

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