Top tips for retaining over-50s female talent post-pandemic

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Article by Steve Butler, CEO at Punter Southall Aspire

The over 50s have been leaving the workforce in growing numbers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

New research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that the number of economically inactive (neither working nor looking for work) people in their 50s and 60s has grown by nearly 250,000 since late 2019 They found the majority (53%) of this growth in economic inactivity was from retirement. 

Also, this year PwC’s Women in Work Index fell for the first time in its 10 year history. They highlighted that the pandemic set back progress towards gender equality in work by at least two years across Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. This was due to higher female unemployment and a greater proportion of women than men leaving the labour market during the pandemic.

Now more than ever firms need to prioritise retaining over 50s female talent to keep valuable skills and experience within the business, particularly as many are facing a skills shortage and struggling to recruit talent.  The changing demographics of the workforce make this even more critical as one in three employees will be over 50 by 2025.

Employers will increasingly need to draw on the skills of older workers as the UK population ages, therefore focusing on retaining the over 50s in the workplace makes good business sense. Those that don’t risk losing valuable talent to their competitors as people in their 50s could have another twenty years of working ahead of them.

Below are some top tips for keeping over the over 50s in the workforce:

Address ageism in the workplace

A You Gov survey for the Centre for Ageing Better found that while 40% of employees over the age of 50 think their workplace has a policy related to preventing age discrimination, nearly half of these people (47%) say it has made no difference. Ageism can exist in many areas of the organisation such as training, promotion, redundancy and retirement, and can prevent older workers reaching their potential. One of the first things employers can do is to stamp this out.

Promote an age-positive culture

Create an age-positive working environment, where people of all ages feel valued. One of the ways to do this is through reverse mentoring with older employees paired up with young colleagues to share knowledge and different ways of working. Also support interaction and networking among staff of all ages.

Offer flexible working

Flexible, remote and hybrid working can all help keep older workers in work. The 50s especially can have caring responsibilities, some with young families and others with older relatives. Offering flexible or part-time working can be a way to help them manage these other responsibilities and still work.

Encourage career development

Employers can often neglect career development for older workers, but this is just as important as it is for younger workers – everyone wants to feel challenged. Training and career progression is key to keeping someone happy and motivated.

Take care of employees’ health

The Centre for Ageing Better found that a quarter of workers with a health condition who are aged 55 and over were considering stopping work, 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.

For example, putting in a place a policy that support women going through the menopause could help to retain women.

A poll by Koru Kids earlier this year found that more than a million women with menopausal symptoms are under pressure to quit their jobs because they are not getting the support they need.

Conduct midlife reviews

A proactive way to stimulate conversations about next steps, career development and flexible career solutions is to introduce Midlife Reviews for mid-career staff in their late 40s and early 50s. These can explore what kind of training or upskilling they might need, changes to working patterns and tailoring the benefits package to suit older workers.

It’s an opportunity to discuss retirement aspirations too and ensure employees are on the pathway to achieving them. Midcareer people have time to make changes that could improve their financial situation in retirement.

Midlife Reviews can mean that the last ten or twenty years of a person’s working life is their most productive and rewarding as it brings together their accumulated experience, expertise and know-how for the benefit of their employer.

A thriving, modern business is one where people of all ages fulfil their potential. This doesn’t have to stop at 50.

About the author

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.

Steve Butler
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