In less than 20 years, this number will increase by over 40%.
(Source: The State of Ageing in 2019: Centre for Ageing Better)
As we live longer, people’s work patterns are shifting. It is no longer standard to start working at 18 and retire at 65.
Younger generations are starting work later in life. Knowing that they might very well live into their 80s, 90s and even to 100, they might be working, in some form or another, until they are octogenarians. So what's the rush to get started? There is none.
Meanwhile older workers may choose to stay on board for longer, well past what was traditionally considered “retirement age”, and into their 70s. Staff in that age group may have very different skills, expectations and interests to your millennial workers - even those in their 40s.
Most companies are barely thinking about the challenges of managing such age diverse teams.
What benefits should you provide? What kinds of working hours are appropriate? What pace of work? What technological skills should be expected?
Balancing everyone’s needs can be challenging. This guide aims to provide you with a helpful overview of the different challenges you're likely to face, and some of the ways you can overcome them.
First up: what do the stats say?
Butler's Blog, 2019
Lain and Loretto, 2016
World Population Prospectus, 2017
How can you help your older workers transmit the knowledge and experience they have gained over decades to their younger colleagues, and in turn encourage younger colleagues to share their own unique knowledge with older generations?
There are no easy answers, but, the key is to actively manage the issues around an ageing workforce.
Yes, you might officially be committed to age diversity. And perhaps you have official policies around age discrimination. But in many cases, these formal rules often amount to an insurance against litigation, and do not translate into meaningful practices within the organisation.
Engagement with the issues around the ageing workforce is often extremely superficial. For many companies, this is still a relatively new area.
So how can you start preparing your company for the challenges (and benefits!) of an ageing workforce? Read on for some practical solutions...
20% of employee respondents have faced challenges with managing age diversity at work
Start by rolling age into the initiatives you run in any case around diversity.
And help your employees understand that there are enormous benefits to working in a multi-generational environment, just as working in a multi-cultural environment helps everyone.
Everyone has knowledge to share, with older generations retaining – for example – a lot of institutional and operational knowledge which would otherwise be lost.
Create cross-generational mentoring programmes to share that knowledge.
Intolerance of ageism should be a given, just like intolerance of sexism and discrimination against minorities is now a norm.
And help the generations working together see that they’re dependent on each other’s success.
Encourage them to work together in age-diverse projects, so they can develop trust and work together for a common goal. Team-based incentive and reward systems work particularly well.
After more ideas on managing an ageing workforce? Punter Southall Aspire CEO Steve Butler's book Manage the Gap: Achieving success with intergenerational teams is a practical guide, full of actionable advice for leaders and managers who want to build a business that’s fit for the future.
Read this book to:
💡 Understand how to engage with, and motivate, younger people
💡 Effectively manage workers who are older than you
💡 Develop a management style fit for all generations
💡 Structure business processes that work for all
💡 Support your multigenerational workforce to do their best work
Understand the demographic mix in your company and segmenting the type of benefits you offer is key to creating an employee benefits strategy which attracts and retains good staff.
The aim of benefits is to help you attract and retain good staff. But a 25-year-old and 58-year-old are likely to want and need very different benefits.
After all, their financial means and priorities, their lifestyles and interests probably diverge considerably.
So how do you keep everyone happy – from digital natives and new hires right through to older workers approaching retirement, and even those who have passed the traditional retirement age?
The answer is to accept that benefits cannot be “one size fits all”.
You need to understand the demographic mix in your company and segment the type of benefits you offer accordingly.
And if you are looking to attract a particular demographic segment – for example, you want to recruit more millennials or more employees in the middle of their careers – then you need to design your benefits package so that it appeals to them, too.
It's worth examining the full range of benefits you might offer, from workplace savings to flexible work policies, wellbeing programmes and many more options.
So, for example, younger staff members who tend to put a high premium on social activism and social responsibility may love the idea of a Give As You Earn (GAYE) scheme, allowing them to donate to charity straight from their gross income.
Meanwhile, older staff may particularly value access to GP services without leaving the office, which may better suit their working patterns.
Read on for some other detailed examples of benefits that might appeal to your younger and older workers...
Let's start with the most obvious employee benefit of all: Pensions.
Everyone wants – and is legally entitled to – an auto-enrolment (AE) contribution from their employer. But there are some minor differences.
As we all know, younger workers tend to be far less concerned with their pensions (because retirement still feels so far away to them), so beyond basic AE employee contributions, you might consider contributing to a Workplace Lifetime ISA instead.
This might prove more useful for them in the short-term, because they can use it for more immediate costs such as buying a home – and as a result, they might perceive it as a better benefit.
Older workers are more likely to want help with retirement planning and information about what happens if they work beyond retirement age. Digital natives are – by definition - more likely to require online and mobile access to their pension details, if you want them to engage with their pension, and value this benefit.
I would wager that older employees are most likely interested in the traditional insurance products: Health insurance and life insurance, along with cover for critical illness and income protection.
These products offer good value for people with families to take care of and who are ageing. And in some cases the cover may be extended to the employee's family members, too, saving them money.
The younger generation of employees is probably understandably less excited about life insurance, because they feel they still have their whole lives ahead of them.
So if you are looking to attract more millennials, you may choose to emphasise different benefits….
....(although holding life cover can help to minimise the costs of your first home purchase, so that's another reason for millennials to be interested in this benefit!).
Employee wellbeing and assistance programmes are reportedly more important to millennial employees.
These are particularly helpful for stress-related issues and support the expectation that I often see amongst millennials, that they work for a caring employer.
Other potentially popular benefits for your younger staff are cash plans that give them access to gym discounts. You might also experiment with a related product, immediate support for sports injuries.
One thing that everybody likes is the ability to buy holiday – but I wager they want this benefit for very different reasons!
Younger people often buy extra holiday to give them a better work/life balance, because that is a key consideration for this generation. But it seems to me that employees who are approaching pension age may use it as a way to take temporary 'mini-retirement' breaks or to wind down gradually into full retirement.
That means that while you might offer the same benefit, you might talk about it differently to the various segments.
...but this might not be enough to support and retain staff in their mid-40s, who may still have 20… 30… or even 35 years left to earn a living.
It makes sense that an employee at this point in their working life may be re-evaluating where their career is going.
They may be asking themselves what changes they need to put in place to ensure they can continue to contribute and thrive professionally over the coming decades. Some might decide to strike out on their own - according to the Financial Times, 43% of those starting their own businesses are over 50.
But others might be seeking different answers - such as changing position, re-training, upping their professional skills, or taking a sabbatical.
A mid-life career review will get them thinking about key issues such as additional skills and development, flexibility, or career breaks. Then they can find creative solutions where possible – together with your support.
The idea originated with the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) which, in 2015, piloted a “mid-life career review” (MLCR).
Thanks to the programme’s success, Aviva championed its own “mid-life MOT”.
94% of employees over the age of 45 signed up for the free service.
This suggests that staff understand full well that if they are going to continue working for another two or three decades, a bit of planning is in order.
And that is exactly why companies like yours should consider implementing a mid-career MOT, too.
In one academic study, younger employees were asked to pick the top two factors that motivate them to stay at their jobs. Flexibility was the top choice, chosen by 59%. It was followed by proximity (43%), enjoyable work (29%) and work environment (27%).
(Source: Smith, S. & Galbraith, Q., 2012. Motivating Millennials)
But the younger generation – those who started coming of age in the early 21st century, and are ‘digital natives’ – may have very different expectations for the world of work.
It's important to ensure you design a workplace which responds to and supports their needs, too.
For example, surveys show that having flexible working conditions is a key value for those who started coming of age in the early 21st century, and are ‘digital natives’.
This includes not just where they work from – home, or perhaps a local café or library – but also the way they dress at work. They don’t want to be forced into suits and ties.
If you are going to recruit and retain these younger workers, you need to work with this characteristic – not try to fight it.
So if you recognise that your staff are going to routinely want to work from out of the office or out-of-hours, embrace flexible working and give them the tools they need to do their job.
For example, equip them with laptops, not desktops. Or ensure that the intranet and any other resources they need are accessible from outside the office.
And ultimately recognise that a better work-life balance is a good thing, which we can all benefit from. It should not be the preserve of younger workers only.
We were surprised at how few staff members we have in the younger and older age brackets.
Only 22% are under the age of 34. And we only have two employees over the age of 65.
You may wonder why we're so open about these numbers, which many companies would keep confidential. If you want to build a genuinely multi-generational working culture, you need to make sure you have an appropriate mix of workers in each age bracket.
But it's impossible to have an honest, open discussion about age diversity and discrimination in your workplace, unless it‘s based on REAL numbers.
And where discrimination does occur, it is sometimes a function of lack of knowledge – if we don’t know our own numbers, we might not recognise there is a problem.
Our 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Report shares the steps we are taking to achieve our vision of a varied and equal split of ages.