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AGE IS JUST A NUMBER: SUPPORTING OLDER WORKERS

Organisations need age diversity if they want to thrive, says Claire McCartney, senior policy adviser for resourcing and inclusion at CIPD.

27th September 2020

Think about the impact your comms might be having on the way your older workers see their place in your organisation. Make sure messaging is inclusive.

CLAIRE McCARTNEY, CIPD


It should come as no surprise that the UK workforce is getting older.

A number of factors contribute to this: we’re living for longer and, as a result, the age of retirement is increasing, but it’s not just mandatory requirements keeping people in the workplace. Many older workers value the opportunity to work for longer – it offers them cognitive stimulation, social interaction and improved financial wellbeing.

In a survey of UK working-age adults by investment management company Fidelity International, more than half of respondents expected to continue to work in their retirement, and 45 per cent expected to work past the age of 70.


Benefits of age diversity

Recruiting older workers (commonly categorised as aged 55+) into organisations has clear benefits. With years of experience behind them, they will have built up a wealth of skills and knowledge and, as new recruits, they will often be able to quickly get up to speed with the ins and outs of the organisation and the role at hand.

Age diversity in our workforces has a host of benefits. Different groups bring to the table different perspectives, and research undertaken by CIPD has found that having multiple generations working alongside one another can boost learning, problem solving and idea creation.

Have your older workforce mentor less established members of the team, and vice versa. We all have valuable knowledge and skills to offer people and we all have things we can learn. Mutual mentoring can also be a great way to increase understanding of diversity and inclusion among your employees, as it can bring people with different characteristics and lived experiences together, which in turn can help to dismantle bias.


Develop fulfilling careers for all age groups

Continuous professional development is a recognised necessity to keep skills up to date and to aide progression, yet older workers are less likely to take part in training compared with other age cohorts – either because they’re not offered it or because they’re not encouraged to take it up. They’re also less likely to put themselves forward for training too, so it’s important for organisations to champion and promote development opportunities in a way that will be accessible and appealing to everyone.

Workers are likely to be committed to their organisation and want it to succeed even beyond their tenure, so your organisation should take responsibility for helping people to make their careers as fulfilling as possible. To do this, enable people to reach their potential by having open, two-way conversations about their needs, hopes and desires, and find out what motivates them at work.

Following on from this, don’t perpetuate stereotypes. It’s simply not true that older workers can’t and/or won’t adapt to new technology, so don’t assume they won’t be interested in training or initiatives that encompass this. And remember, there can be differences within groups as well as across groups.


Engage through inclusive messaging

As internal communicators, think about the impact your comms might be having on the way your older workers feel and see their place in your organisation. Make sure your messaging is inclusive and don’t use language or images that make assumptions or preference one age cohort over another. 

Keep your older workers engaged and aligned with the organisation’s future vision by focusing on what unites all of your employees – the shared purpose of the organisation and what it stands for. Involve all of your age cohorts when you’re doing message development and measurement and when testing out materials to ensure they resonate, and use comms to show that every individual effort is valued and appreciated.

And don’t just forget about your employees once they’ve retired. Setting up an alumni community or retirement community to share events, updates and communicate is a great way to show people their contribution to the organisation was valued.

It’s not just a nice-to-have either. Groups like this can serve as a freelance resource and a valuable talent pool for you to tap in to should people decide they’re not quite ready to settle down.


TOP TIPS

1 Treat people as individuals and listen to their wants and needs in order to effectively assist their professional development.

2 Make your comms inclusive. Be conscious of the language and imagery you use, and listen to all age groups when you’re gathering feedback on comms.

3 Don’t jump to conclusions about what older workers can and can’t do, or what they may or may not be interested in.

Think about the impact your comms might be having on the way your older workers see their place in your organisation. Make sure messaging is inclusive.

CLAIRE McCARTNEY, CIPD

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