Never too old to work: managing an age diverse workforce

Date15 April 2020
Published date15 April 2020
AuthorSteve Butler
Never too old to work: managing an age
diverse workforce
Steve Butler
Purpose Setting the scene of a workforce that is livingand working longer. Changing demographics
are goingto have a huge impact on the workplace andbusinesses need to get ahead of the curve.
Design/methodology/approach Age stereotyping is one of thebiggest issues faced by companies
today. Companies need to focus on recruiting and retaining people based on their ability and
capabilities,not their age.
Findings In an intergenerationalteam, the team members are not artificiallydefined or divided by age;
it is their talent that is important.Employers must recognize the unique skillsand experiences each team
Originality/value The expectation of flexibility among younger employees is now ingrained. If
businesseswant to recruit and retain younger workers,they must embrace this way of working. Flexibility
is just as important for older workers, especially those with caring responsibilities (children or elderly
parents.)Employers need to adapt their benefits packageto appeal to all.
Keywords Age discrimination, Older workers, Flexible working, Age diversity
Paper type Viewpoint
The changing workplace
There is no question that our workforce is ageing. That reflects the population as a whole:
life expectancy has moved up markedly in recentdecades. In 1951, women in England and
Wales could expect (on average) to live to the age of 72 and men to 66. By 2011, women
were living to the age of eighty-three and men to seventy-nine (Office for National Statistics,
We are also working longer. In the UK, 30 per cent of the workforce is already over the age
of fifty, and the number of people between the ages of 65 and 69 who are working doubled
between 2001 and 2014 (Lain and Loretto, 2016). If a growing workforce of over-seventies
sounds far-fetched, according to Office for National Statistics figures (Hall and Williams,
2019) nearly one in nine men aged seventyor over are already working full or part time. That
is an increase of 137 per cent over the past tenyears.
All this at a time when the upcoming generation of “worker bees” are starting their careers
later because more are going through higher education (Dearing, 1997). This is a major
shift: as our pre-work lives have extended, so have our working lives. One reason is that
because we are living longer (and enjoying more healthy years of life), we need to fund
longer retirements. But recentstudies suggest other factors are at work as well.
Although life expectancy has increased for people in all age groups, the improvements are
far more marked for those in higher socio-economic groups. That is reflected in working
longevity: employees who are educated to a higher level are more likely to prolong their
working life (Angeloni and Borgonovi,2016). So are those who are healthier (Patrickson and
Ranzijn, 2004) and as companies adapt to this new reality by giving older staff more
Steve Butler is based at the
Punter Southall Aspire,
London, UK.
DOI 10.1108/SHR-03-2020-0020 VOL. 19 NO. 3 2020, pp. 117-122, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1475-4398 jSTRATEGIC HR REVIEW jPAGE 117

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