Helping workers plan for the future will help employers retain skilled staff

By Dr Aideen Young, Evidence Manager, the Centre for Ageing Better

Our research shows that workers in later life want work that they find personally meaningful, intellectually stimulating and sociable. They want jobs that are flexible and come with opportunities for learning, mentoring and career progression – and they want workplaces that are supportive and inclusive.

Being able to properly support these workers is crucial for employers. As I discussed in a previous blog, these workers are the workforce of the future with predictions of one million more people aged 50 and over and 300,000 fewer people aged 30 and under in the workplace by 2025. In fact, one in three of the working age population will be aged 50 or over. Employers who recognise and respond to their needs will be the employers of choice in a changing marketplace.

Our new report, Mid‐life support: insights for employers will help employers go some way to becoming an employer of choice: it highlights and provides recommendations for one key element of their age‐friendly offer – the support offered to employees to think ahead and prepare for later life. We know that many individuals do not plan for later life and that this has serious implications, whether it’s not having enough savings and pensions income to get by or finding themselves lonely, isolated and struggling to make social connections. Mid‐life support – which employers are naturally placed to provide – can help people think about the future, appraise their situation and identify their goals.

We previously outlined a framework for a mid‐life MOT based on the findings of a pilot scheme involving Aviva, Legal & General, The Pensions Advisory Service and Mercer. This framework comprised three broad areas: work (current work, skills and qualifications and retirement plans); wealth (income, expenditure, assets, retirement and goals) and health (family history, fitness and health behaviours).

Now, with insights gained from the Transitions in Later Life (TiLL) programme, we go further, and recommend that psychological and emotional support should also be incorporated into the support employers offer. Indeed, we see it as the foundation upon which this support rests.

This recommendation is the result of our recent evaluation of two courses conducted in partnership with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (CGF) UK Branch. The courses we evaluated were Working Longer and Living Life to the Full, run by Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CWP) and Changing Gears, run by Age & Opportunity (A&O) in Ireland. They aim to provide people with psychological and emotional tools to enable them to better navigate whatever transitions come their way.

As one participant in the CWP course put it, “It put a very positive focus on working longer and you can do the two, you know, you can still work but also have some down time. But not to be scared of when you do make the decision to retire. It can be a new beginning rather than an end. Having participated in the courses, participants had improved well‐being, self‐kindness, attitudes to retirement and attitudes to ageing. But we also saw participants becoming clearer about their goals
for the future in those practical areas of career, health, learning, finances, relationships, volunteering and hobbies.

Another CWP participant told us how they had thought more about their future plans since doing the course: “I think it will help me to start understanding more what I want to do in retirement and when I want to retire… And then it won’t be such a big step change come the day when I do hand in my notice and retire fully.”

People also took some practical steps following the courses, including talking to family and friends about their plans, taking up exercise, speaking to their line managers and seeking financial advice. In other words, the psychological and emotional support offered by these courses, and the space they provide for reflection, appears to give people the resources they need to undertake planning across other areas of their lives.

The evaluation also looked at levels of job involvement (that is, how invested people were in their jobs) before and after participating in the courses. We found that participation in the TiLL courses resulted in a decline in job involvement among people with the highest levels to start with (those most at risk of burnout), but an improvement among those with the lowest levels to start with (those most at risk of quitting their jobs). This appears to signify an improved work‐life balance and if so, is likely to result in better staff retention – obviously a relevant issue for employers who will increasingly need to hold on to their knowledgeable and experienced older workers.

Certainly, participants were very positive about their organisations for giving them access to the courses and felt that it indicated that they were valued. One participant in the A&O course noted: “It was very progressive ... and it showed that they really truly valued their staff.”

With an ageing workforce, workplaces must become age‐friendly. Mid‐life support is a key part of age‐friendly employment practices. It should provide a holistic review of peoples’ lives in the present and as they age. And it should include psychological and emotional support as provided in the TiLL courses as this enables the reflection that allows people to take stock and put in place the steps that will help them achieve the later lives they want.

Thank you for your comments. There may be a short delay in this going live on the blog page as we moderate the comments added to our blogs.

  • This is an insightful and compelling blog, and an important topic.  I work with many small businesses to help them shift their thinking in regards to being more open, flexible and diverse in their approach to building a workforce.  Whether they mean to or not, I find that many are quite closed off to this, and seem set in their ways when it comes to assuming a younger able-bodied full-time employee without any flexibility built in for most vacancies when approaching workforce planning.  This is definintely something that we should work hard as a profession to influence positively, but when you consider that over 99% of UK businesses are small or micro businesses who may not have an HR Manager, let alone an HR department, the question should also be posed as to how to influence, guide, advise and support these businesses that be outside of CIPD members' immediate input.