People are working longer than ever. Thanks to a rising state pension age, an ageing population and declining pensions, by 2022 35% of the UK workforce will be over 50.  

Successfully managing an ageing workforce is going to become ever more important for businesses who want to attract the widest level of talent. Supporting older employees also means lower recruitment and training costs because businesses retain more staff as they age. Mature starters also tend to stay in roles longer than more transient younger staff. And differing life and work experiences – and the cognitive diversity these bring – mean wider ranges of understanding and solutions to problems.

A small but increasing number of employers are beginning to recognise the benefits of employing older workers. But the CIPD found that, although the UK's policy framework for supporting older workers is relatively well-developed, it needs to be translated into action. Age discrimination and unconscious bias remain widespread, and the way that workplaces, work and jobs are designed needs a rethink. 

Below are 5 ways you can begin to adapt policy and practice in your organisation so they take account of older workers and the issues they face.

1.Match leave

Most caring responsibilities arise when people are in their late 40s and beyond. Innovations like a matched leave policy for working carers can help you support them. Employees who need to take a day's leave to carry out caring tasks get an extra day's leave to match it. The goodwill a policy like this creates is priceless, and it has other benefits. It stops carers using their leave on often stressful tasks and feeling burnt out. It helps employers convert hidden absences into positive leave. And it lets employees avoid feeling they need to pull a sickie.

2.Build in flexibility

Building flexibility into your organisation's job design, training and management styles should be a priority if you're looking to break the cycle of losing older workers. Planning for phased retirement could also help you retain older employees who have valuable knowledge, networks and experience.

3.Train for age-diversity

Line managers can be forces for enabling change or barriers to progress, so it's vital you get them on board. The CIPD says around half of the UK's line managers are not trained in managing age diverse teams, leaving them ill-equipped to deal with some of the challenges that arise. Inform, train and support your managers to successfully manage age-diverse teams.

4.Tackle unconscious bias

Monitor age as a diversity characteristic in your recruitment process, and remove the upper age limit for apprenticeships and graduate schemes. Recognise that though ageing is universal, it's not uniform. The impact of physical challenges associated with getting older depend on the job role and the person, and it's likely they'll become less relevant as the knowledge-based economy continues to grow. 

5.Train and develop

Too often, training stops at 50. Rising retirement ages should increase the incentives for employers to invest in new skills for the over 50s, enabling them to work longer if they want to. And both employees and employers need to recognise that job roles may need to evolve over time due to health or caring responsibilities. Job-sharing between younger and older workers, lateral career moves and mentoring younger colleagues are all ways of positively adapting to change.

Written by: Dee McCurry
Bank Workers Charity

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Dee McCurry