A new report by the Centre for Ageing Better has called on employers to be more age-friendly and inclusive of those over 50 years of age.
In conjunction with Business in the Community, the Centre for Ageing Better commissioned a YouGov survey of over 1,100 employees over the age of 50 in order to examine attitudes to ageing.
The survey shows that 14% of over-50 employees believe they have been turned down for a job due to their age. Nearly one in five (18%) have hidden (or have considered hiding) their age in job applications. Nearly half (46%) think their age would disadvantage them in applying for a job, whilst one in five think people perceive them as being less capable because of their age.
The survey formed part of a report into older workers. The report sets out 5 ways in which employers can become “age friendly”.
1. Be flexible about flexible working
The report recommends that employers offer more kinds of flexibility, manage it well and also help people to know their options.
It says that older workers might wrongly assume that flexibility is only something available to parents and carers, and may not know how to enter into a conversation with their employer to discuss changes to their work pattern.
The report suggests that a “right to reduce” working hours can make it easier for older workers wishing to phase into retirement.
Additionally, the report says that flexibility should be designed into jobs by managers. Training – so that manager can understand how to do this – is therefore critical.
2. Hire age positively.
The report recommends that employers actively target candidates of all ages and minimise age bias in recruitment.
To do this, recruitment campaigns should be broadened out. Community based outreach approaches, such as a pop-up stand in a supermarket or at a local football club, can lead to more applications from older workers. This can also help bring back into the labour market those who have “retired”. Research suggests that 25% of retirees return to some form of paid work.
Some small measures can have a big impact in minimising age bias in recruitment. Ensure both the language of the advertisement is age-neutral as well as any accompanying images. Focus on transferable skills in the application rather than industry buzzwords, and avoid requiring any qualifications that might flag age (e.g. GCSEs rather than O-levels). Don’t require candidates to complete experience chronologically, but instead ask for evidence of how their experience meets key competencies of the role.
When it comes to the interview itself, ensure a structured approach is taken. The report highlights research that unstructured one-to-one interviews can be fraught with bias (and, in any event, are terrible predictors of a candidate’s future performance).
3. Ensure everyone has the health support they need.
The report highlights health as being a key driver leading to older workers leaving the labour market before they are ready.
The report argues that employers should build a supportive culture around managing health issues. They should encourage conversations about heath, and ensure that the right support is available to those who need it.
The report suggests that fear of a negative response or a lack of clear guidance can put people off telling their employer about health conditions.
4. Encourage career development at all ages.
Employers are used to investing in the career development of younger staff, but may not make the same opportunities available to older staff. Yet a new joiner at 50 years old may have a 20+ year career ahead of them before they are ready to even start thinking about retirement.
The report suggests that employers open up career development and support to all staff, including older workers. Not only would this build the skills of the whole workforce, but it would give a strong signal of commitment to the develop of all staff.
Reverse mentoring schemes – whereby younger workers act as mentors for older workers – can strengthen intergenerational connections in the workplace.
5. Create an age positive culture.
The report argues that employers should do more to create an age positive culture.
Monitoring and analysing workforce data on age diversity is fundamental to understanding what issues exist. For example, percentage of staff making flexible working requests, percentage disclosing health conditions, and the age profile of applicants for new roles.
Because they are at the frontline of making a workplace age friendly, line managers should be given whatever support they need. The report cites an example where age diversity training was provided to 32 supervisors, but a year later conflicts had fallen and innovation increased.
The report highlights a particular issue: younger managers responsible for older team members. A perceived mismatch in status can create resentment and negativity which can spread through a team. Training can help.