• HR prioritises retirement planning ahead of training for over-50s, research shows

  • 12 Jan 2016
  • Comments 7 comments

Mismatch between what older workers want and how they’re managed at work

When it comes to managing older workers HR is “off target", research has revealed, as the majority of HR focuses on retirement planning rather than helping over-50s to use their skills and expertise for the benefit of the business.

Organisations are still failing to realise the potential of older workers, also called baby boomers, despite campaigns and research showing the benefits of employing multi-generational workforces, according to research from Ashridge Executive Education.

The survey of more than 2,000 workers over-50 years old, and HR staff working in organisations that employ older workers, found a significant mismatch between what baby boomers want from work and the way they are portrayed, managed, and valued within the organisation.

Older workers are ambitious, want challenging and fulfilling jobs and are hungry for continued growth and development, survey results showed.

However, just 1 per cent of HR staff felt older workers needed career development.

The focus for many HR professionals, and managers, was on developing younger generations, while training for older workers included retirement and financial planning.

Dr Carina Paine-Schofield, research fellow at Ashridge and co-author of the report, said there was a common misconception that older workers were hanging onto senior roles and blocking the next generation of talent coming through. However, research has proven the business benefits of sharing knowledge and experience between people of different ages, she said.

“Baby boomers are often in senior positions and are role models for others in the business. If they are not stimulated and engaged at work, the knock-on effect on the motivation levels of others could be enormous,” she added.

“Organisations also need to think about how the way they perceive and manage older workers impacts on recruitment and their brand image as an employer.”

In a separate report from British Gas, almost three quarters (72 per cent) of workers over 50 years old believe they are still capable of learning new skills and are keen to do so to contribute more at work.

However, 11 per cent of them said their employer assumed they had “peaked” professionally, while 12 per cent said a reluctance to invest in training for more experienced workers was holding them back in their organisation.

Matthew Bateman, managing director of British Gas Residential Services, said it was clear that older workers are still hungry for new challenges, yet a third of the 1,000 workers surveyed felt their employer did not provide them with enough training.

Just one in 10 older workers reported they got as much training as their younger colleagues.

Ashridge’s ‘Don’t Put Baby (boomers) in the Corner’ report suggests that generation Y and baby boomers were very similar in terms of what they want to get out of work.

It suggests that an individual and informal approach to career discussions, coaching and mentoring and exploring options for older workers to get involved in advisory roles or special projects, would help over 50s to maximise their contribution and continue to thrive at work.

You can access a full copy of the Ashridge report by emailing: rebecca.coatswith@ashridge.hult.edu

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Comments (7)
  • For those who are interested, Ashridge are currently looking for responses to the next phase of this research in a survey of what drives all generations in their attitude to work. If you have five minutes spare we would love to hear your opinion! https://ashridge.az1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_4SBp2j44K5mltdP&Q_JFE=0

  • While I agree that people in their 50's are, and should be, interested in their careers and their development given the increase in state retirement age to 67, it is worth remembering that the government is now allowing a lot more flexibility regarding use of pensions from the age of 55. The weight of responsibility on company pension schemes to talk with individuals about the use of their pensions savings, and what pensions, and pension options they have,is a major challenge to HR departments. There is a major push from all parts of the pensions industry to start communications early so that prospective pensioners can plan sensibly for the last 10 to 15 years of their career. The issue of what guidance is available to 50 year olds is that they need both pension guidance and career development advice.

  • I am one of these older workers - (have BA, MBA and Diploma) and find instead of using my expertise, employers appear wary of me. I just want a few hours - say 20 hrs a week at the level I'm qualified to. I just want to contribute a bit before old age fully takes over. But Im not sitting around waiting, I'm working on a few projects (far below my level of qualification) and I'm happy and busy. Society is missing out on our expertise - big time.

  • Well, if you ask me, the most critical part of preparing for retirement is just having a plan. Whether you use a spreadsheet or a tool like OnTrajectory.com or some other website -- you have to get everything out in front of you so you can make smarter decisions. Once you do that, then implementing your disciplined retirement strategy becomes critical.

  • I agree heartily with this sentiment. At 55 I still have plenty of ambition and don't see myself retiring for at least another 15-20 years. I hope companies, particularly recruiting staff wake up to what the more mature worker has to offer and realise they are missing out unless they learn to value our experience. That means offering us what we want too regarding work patterns & packages :).

  • Retirement? I'm 54 and won't be able to draw my state pension till I'm 67. My employer recently paid for me to attend senior level development and I'm currently planning the shape I want my career to take over the next 5 years. Retirement is nowhere on my agenda

  • 'Older worker' at 50? The window between getting a master's degree at ~25 and retiring at ~70 (it's a constantly upwardly moving age) means ~50 is only about halfway through the journey! So stretch your mind, body, and imagination and if your company does not want to invest in you, move on, at any age!