Eluned Morgan, Minster for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, who is backing the Welsh Government’s ‘People Don’t Have a ‘Best Before Date’ campaign, speaks about the need for Welsh employers employers to capitalise on the skills of older workers and embrace them into a multi-generational workforce. The Minister outlines why everyone in Wales should have the most fulfilling careers – whatever their age:
Research has revealed that, in the UK, almost half (44%) of people aged over 50 feel unsupported by their employer when it comes to their career ambitions and objectives.
This is a worrying statistic given that the number of older people in work is dramatically increasing – and is one that needs to be addressed urgently to prevent this important segment of the population feeling marginalised, undervalued and out of touch.
Don’t under-estimate mature talent
Older workers in Wales should be given the opportunity to secure the jobs and careers they want and to be able to enjoy high levels of job satisfaction. They must not be overlooked or underestimated because of their age, but should be celebrated for the positive impact they can make in the workplace. With a depth of knowledge and experience that cannot be taught, they have the capacity to act as mentors to their younger, less experienced counterparts.
To set the scene, by 2022 1 in 3 people of working age in Wales will be age 50 or over. Rising living costs, insufficient pension savings, and a desire to keep mentally active means people now want to work for longer, and almost two thirds of working over-50s plan to retire later than they had expected to only 10 years ago. Combine this with a forecasted 300,000 fewer workers under the age of 30 in the UK by 2025- and it’s clear that businesses should see older workers as fundamental if they are to ensure the continued prosperity of their own enterprise as well as the Welsh economy.
The transformation of our working landscape means that the traditional segmentation of life into education, career and retirement no longer works. It is now rare that someone leaves school to enter a job that they remain in until retirement. The financial and familial pressures of modern life, with constantly changing requirements and transitions, means we take career breaks, change jobs and have a propensity to keep learning throughout our lives in order to stay employable.
Leading employers are already embracing a multi-generational workforce
Big national companies are leading the way including Aviva, Coop, Nationwide and Barclays. Their ethos should be reflected by the largest and most successful companies in Wales. One positive example is Western Power Distribution South Wales, which is widely known for its positive attitude to flexible working and for valuing attributes including maturity, dependability and trustworthiness. The firm boasts a long association with Age Cymru and has spent millions of pounds training its teams.
Talk to your workforce and be flexible where you can
First of all, talk with staff and listen carefully to what they say. Be open-minded and consider possibilities and options. We need employers to be a little more accommodating in their approach to recruitment, selection and the organisation of work.
Be flexible. Older workers may have health issues, caring responsibilities or other personal circumstances that make full-time work difficult. Employers who offer flexible working options benefit from more engaged staff who feel more able to balance their work with their home life.
Offer training and development.
Employees who have been at a company for many years will benefit from training on the latest systems, trends and methods of working. Businesses must ensure that there are support networks in place to help older workers transition to new ways of working, to expand their skills into new areas, and to seek promotions. Career guidance is as important for those in their fifties as for those in their twenties.
Avoid discrimination – for any reason
Do not discriminate when hiring. Judging an application on age is inherently wrong and should be eradicated from any working culture. Similarly, relying on qualifications as a benchmark can mean you may be missing older yet highly skilled people who don’t have the same qualifications but could do the role. Businesses should craft job ads to encourage applicants to be open, honest and proud of their age.
Support your staff towards retirement
Advise on retirement and transition towards it. Companies that offer practical guidance on retirement, finances and planning appeal to older workers, which means these companies have the best chance of retaining as well as attracting the most outstanding employees.
Encourage health and wellbeing
Offer health and wellbeing support, as many employers are unaware how much staff absences can cost them. Be an employer who prioritises healthcare – whether that’s physical or mental – from accessing a confidential counselling helpline, to accommodating medical equipment.
Breed an age-positive culture. Employers should ensure that their younger employees are respectful of their older colleagues, and that age at work – and the immense experience and knowledge it brings – is something to be admired.
Making small but fundamental changes to the way a business is run can make the difference between it thriving or collapsing. Behaving responsibly, valuing diversity and challenging stereotypes are at the root of being a successful employer in the modern world. And time is of the essence. Businesses must act now to ensure that they welcome and nurture older workers, or risk falling behind in the professional landscape of the not too distant future.
For employers looking for more information on the People Don’t have a Best Before Date campaign and how they can invest in the skills of their older workers, the Welsh Government’s Skills Gateway for Business – www.businesswales.gov.wales/skillsgateway/ has a range of advice and guidance.