Steps employers can take to stop the ‘silver exodus’
From Steve Butler, CEO at Punter Southall Aspire
Employers are witnessing a wave of resignations and early retirements as three in five over-50s have left the workforce sooner than planned, according to the Office for National Statistics[i]. This is more serious than it may seem at first sight since the UK has an ageing population where one in three employees will be over 50 by 2025[ii].
Dubbed the ‘silver exodus’ it’s something employers need to address to prevent their businesses losing valuable talent, at a time where the UK has a skills shortage. A recent report from Monster[iii] found that 87% of employers said they’re struggling to fill positions, and just over half said that finding candidates with the skills they needed was their main challenge.
The over 50s are an increasingly vital part of the workforce. The changing demographics of the UK mean that in the not too distant future employers will need the skills and experience of older workers more than ever as they will make up a large part of the working population.
Employers need to view them as a valuable part of a multigenerational workforce bringing enormous benefits that they can’t afford to lose and work hard to retain them.
So how can employers retain the overs 50s?
According to research from 55Redefined[iv] 39% of employers admit to being less likely to recruit people over the age of 50, and only 35% said they are prepared to retrain staff over that age. They also found that 92% of workers in their mid-50s and over are prepared to take a salary cut to learn a new skill.
Therefore one of the first things employers can do is to stamp out ageism in the workplace. This can exist in many areas of the organisation such as training, promotion, redundancy and retirement, but it’s important to address it company-wide. Not only because age discrimation is illegal under the Equality Act 2010, but it helps foster a more inclusive workplace where staff feel valued whatever their age.
Age diversity training is also useful and can help managers understand the changing demographics of the workforce now and in future and ensure they can recruit and retain the best talent.
Employers could offer flexible working or remote working. This was a success during the pandemic, and many firms now have a hybrid working model. For the over 50s this can be beneficial, as many have caring responsibilities, some with young families, and others with older relatives. Offering flexible or part-time working can encourage them to stay in work.
For those that have been in the organisation a long time offering sabbaticals is a valuable benefit. People in their 50s can feel stale, worn out or even just a bit bored. A few months doing something different whether that’s to travel, take a course or volunteer, could mean them returning to work fresh and energised, with lots of new ideas and creativity.
Career development is important for older workers too. Those in their 50s want to be challenged, so training and progression is critical to keeping someone happy and motivated. Employers should be training managers to support workers of all ages and skill levels, initiating additional management training as needed.
Looking after employees’ health is important. The Centre for Ageing Better[v] found that a quarter of workers with a health condition who are aged 55 and over were considering stopping work because of their poor health – compared to just 8% of those with a health condition aged 25-34.
Encouraging an open culture where people feel comfortable discussing health concerns, as well as employers having appropriate support in place to help people manage health conditions, can make a big difference to someone staying or going.
Finally, conducting a Midlife Review when people are in their mid-40s, early 50s can be a great way to stimulate conversations about next steps, career development and flexible career solutions. This is an important time for many as this is an age where they may face age discrimation.
These reviews can really help companies make the most of their existing workforce, reduce the risk of losing valuable talent and ensure people can enjoy fulfilling careers and continue contributing as much as possible, for as long as possible.
Steve Butler has written 4 books including: Midlife Review: A guide to work, wealth and wellbeing offering business leaders, managers and employees guidance to help them understand and support ‘midlife’ workers and Manage the Gap: Achieving success with intergenerational teams looking at the impact of an ageing population on the workforce, but focusing on employees in the middle of their career.