A major new report by 55/Redefined and the charity UK age diversity charity ProAge.org finds those aged 55 and over feel increasingly feel ‘shut out, forced out and overlooked’ in employment.
55/Redefined are a new membership organisation addressing ageism and offering members a range of services, inspiration and tools covering jobs, legal, finance and lifestyle.
Broadbean are working together with 55/Redefined with to ensure all businesses embrace the economic benefits and potential of the older workforce.
Ageism bias is worse than ever
Unfortunately, societal myths about age prevail, influencing employers and HR policy makers. 55/Redefined are on a mission to change society’s misconception of over 55s and ensure businesses catch up with the reality of today’s older workers. People are living longer, healthier lives – today, your 50s is only the mid-point of life and far away from retirement.
55/Redefined founder and chief executive Lyndsey Simpson says: “Ageism is pervasive in UK society, particularly when it comes to the workplace, and has been compounded by the pandemic, which has had a disproportionate impact on older workers.”
In their report we find that the majority (65%) of older workers believe the jobs market is closed to them by the time they reach 55, while two-thirds of business leaders admit to encouraging older staff to retire at, or before, the state pension age.
A disconnect between young and old
Perhaps most concerning finding is that only 24 percent of leaders in HR aged 25 to 30-years-old were “very” willing or motivated to recruit workers in the 55 to 75 age categories. This is a stark contrast to the 63 percent of older HR leaders aged 46 to 50.
Simpson says: “Worryingly, ageism is being perpetuated by the people that control HR policy and standards with our study finding that younger HR decision makers are less inclined to recruit over-55s compared to their older counterparts.”
“This could perhaps be an unintended consequence of focusing exclusively on other protected diversity and inclusion characteristics.
“HR leaders and CEOs must address this issue urgently, realising the talent and ambitions of older people – bringing age bias in the workplace to an end.”
Why age diversity matters
It’s the law.
Age is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, so it really does matter.
Under 55 working age population is set to shrink by approximately 20 percent by 2050 in western countries. When coupled with the impact of the pandemic, there could be a significant shortfall observed in the workplace. People over 55 are often disadvantaged by an incorrect, but widely believed, stereotype that everyone wants to retire at age 65 or start ‘slowing down’. This new research found that 56 per cent of employees want to continue working beyond the age of 65. If employers continue to disregard a large proportion of those who are willing to work, they miss out on the experience and skills of older staff and fail to fill available roles.
It is common knowledge that embracing diversity and inclusivity across all characteristics drives business results, and the exclusion of older talent from career progression and available roles is driving a bad economic outcome for business missing the talent, skills and experience of a highly motivated workforce who just happen to be older. Ageism within UK workplaces is not only having a damning impact on over 55s, but is holding our economy back.
How can HR leaders tackle ageism?
HR leaders must act urgently to stamp out ageism, and there are a number of practical steps for leaders and their teams to attract, retain and retrain older talent.
First and foremost, age must be thought of as equally important as other D&I initiatives, with HR leaders making a proactive effort to increase age diversity. Treating age as a D&I initiative will help to bring the issue front-of-mind for those leading HR policy and procedure, ensuring it has the same investment – time, thought and money – as race, gender, sexuality and other characteristics.
Here are 6 actions to tackle ageism:
Employers also need to be bias-active by working to understand the level of bias that may already exist in their organisation against age, then delivering training and insight tailored to the business. Our study found that younger HR decision makers are significantly (39 per cent) less inclined to recruit over-55s compared to their older counterparts, showing that tackling bias is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach – you can’t change what isn’t measured, so understanding the current state of play is key before action.
HR leaders should also consider creating new flexible roles that appeal to the over 55 talent pool. While many older workers want to work past 55, our research showed that they value their time outside of work too, either for commitments or lifestyle preferences. Offering permanent roles at three or four days per week, through to rehiring retired professionals for key periods of the year on flexible contracts, may appeal to and attract over-55s and allow employers access to skilled and experienced workers.
We have to be pragmatic about skills, particularly in the current climate. With increasing talent shortages and many businesses struggling to fill key roles, hiring by looking beyond experience and technical fit to soft skills, behaviour, motivation, and cultural fit, might be a welcome solution.
Attracting the over 55 demographic and diversifying workplace culture may require ‘thinking outside the box’ as to how a greater variety of skills and experience can benefit available roles. Over 55s can offer a wealth of valuable life experience that could easily translate to an aptitude for client-facing or management roles.
Consider creating new ways of recruiting and assessing applicants that help to encourage inclusivity for all.
The will to skill
Skills and development shouldn’t be exclusive to younger talent, but that is sadly often the case. Employers that invest in technical training and reskilling of the over-55s, both current and new employees, will help to recruit and importantly, retain them. Employers and HR leaders could investigate if they can create schemes targeting this age group or hiring cohorts of over 55s for in-demand roles that require technical or industry training.
Engage the age
Nobody knows what over 55s want better than the people themselves. Be proactive in asking your existing older workforce what they want and how you can best support them to remain engaged in work for longer.
With a widespread talent shortage impacting many industries, it makes little sense that employers continue to shut out and overlook a third of the UK’s pool of able workers. Furthermore, not solving the ageism problem, and, worse, allowing it to grow, could have seismic short, medium and long-term impacts on the UK’s economy.
Work with Broadbean and 55/Redefined
Stamping out ageism is more than an ethical issue – with an ageing population, the future of business rests on HR leaders seeing beyond a number and recognising the potential of the largely untapped over 55s talent pool.
Broadbean and 55/Redefined working together can tackle the challenge of ageism within your business to create economic value. Find out more here https://www.55redefined.com/jobs-employer