Recruiting more over-50s

Steve Bridger

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Community Manager

25 May, 2017 15:33


Firms pledge to recruit more over-50s

  • Aviva, Barclays, Atos and five other firms have agreed to promote over-50s employment by publishing data about the age of their workforce. 
  • They are responding to a call from the government's Business Champion for Older Workers, Andy Briggs. 
  • In February, he asked firms to increase older worker numbers by 12% by 2022.
  • Mr Briggs warned that by then, there will be 14.5 million more jobs, but only seven million younger workers entering the workplace.
  • He said older workers were vital in filling the UK's "colossal skills gap".

Do you know how many employees you have 'Over 50' - and the proportion of your workforce?

What practical steps would you take to make this happen? Positive discrimination?

  • I must admit that as someone who reaches that magic number next year and has quite a few friends and family in their 50s and 60s (and in one case 40's) who have already 'retired' from the job market, I wonder if the question is really how to encourage employers to employ more over 50's?

    It may be that we need to look as how we encourage and attract, the over 50s?
  • I am a bit nonplussed by this as I don't think of myself as an "older worker" or someone whose employment needs to be promoted by some kind of special action. What will bring about a change in attitudes is the fourth bullet point in Steve's OP: the mushroom-shaped population. Employers are all getting older at the same rate as employees; director and managers are getting older at the same rate as their staff. The thinking behind this "pledge" is that over 50s are some kind of special group, distinct from the population at large, when we are actually part of the population at large, and not a minority but a hefty chunk of the population.

    This kind of thinking seems to me to be a hang-over from previous generations. Nowadays, people don't seem to regard themselves as older until a couple of decades past 50. We all expect to keep on doing what we like doing through our 50s, 60s and beyond.
  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    26 May, 2017 11:00

    In reply to Elizabeth:

    Indeed, Elizabeth.

    Read this piece in Forbes just now... which does mention the challenge of transitioning employees from full-time jobs to part-time work, which I'm not sure many employers are very good at.

    We'll all be sat next to robots anyway...

  • In reply to Elizabeth:

    Previously I would have agreed with you but based on my recent experience I feel that the over 50s do need some assistance.

    I have to say upfront that I have a vested interest in this type of question an over 50 who is finding it impossible to find work and becoming very disillusioned with the whole process of recruitment and those who manage it.

    In my experience employers really don't want over 50s.

    As we all know there are provisions to protect against age discrimination but they simply don't work. Employers can easily work out your age in a number of ways before an interview process, so you don't get invited - for example my qualifications have different names from their more modern equivalents. If you do manage to disguise the fact that you have 35 years of experience and get to an interview, there is no hiding place at that point.

    I have applied for jobs that fit my experience, previous job level, salary, qualifications etc and got nowhere. I have also reduced my expectations and applied for significantly more junior posts and also got nowhere.

    No one is ever foolish enough to actually refer to your age, it more likely to be that "we feel you have too much experience for this role", " this role would not be challenging enough for you", or my personal favourite "this is a junior post" which is code for we want someone younger.

    I am not an HR professional but (pre redundancy) as a fully qualified manager with a large number of staff I always liked to keep up to date with legislation and good practice, hence CIPD associate membership. I read these discussions but tend not to participate as there are people who are infinitely more qualified than I am to provide constructive input.

    On this occasion I wanted to add perspective from the other side so to speak. Until employers are really, really struggling to fill posts they just don't appear to want to even consider the over 50s. As you'll be aware from recent research that's not just my personal experience, it's a fact of current recruitment practice.

    Any move to improve this situation is welcome as far as I am concerned.
  • So many interesting and potentially crossing paths on this one....

    The demographics make it inevitable (short of a catastrophic economic crash) that more over 50's will need to be employed - it wont be a nice to do but a need to do.

    Some over 50's will have options about retirement, semi retirement and flexible patterns of work. these will be the lucky ones with capital and pensions behind them

    Some (many) over 50s will have mortgages, children going through college and lifestyles / bills meaning they have little choice but to continue in full time work as long as they can.

    Some of the latter group will be in roles that don't lend themselves (due to physical etc requirements) to continued full time employment as employees age. This group may end up on social benefits (if they exist) neither fit or skilled enough to work or wealthy enough to retire. (It will be fascinating to see what the Companies you mention Steve are doing for this group - I wonder if much at all)

    Brexit (because it has to be in every debate) is only likely to make the issues more pressing as we have to become more self sufficient in labour - as our youth population isn't growing fast enough the "slack" has to be taken up elsewhere.
  • In reply to Keith:

    When I became a decidedly-'mature' student, to do an employment law LLM, it did rather shock and astonish me when we were debating the then-much-mooted abolition of compulsory retirement age the extent to which otherwise-intelligent decent and rational young people were unjustifiably prejudiced against older workers. Furthermore, I've once closely observed such blatant prejudice being espoused by a young, talented CEO when he found out I'd endorsed selection (based on ability!) of a candidate aged well over 50 for a senior vacancy and that shocked me deeply too.

    For these reasons, I applaud and endorse the view of Julie above.
  • What is your definition of an older worker?  For some employers they see this as anyone 45 +.  Do employers not realise that even at 45 you have not reached your prime as far as your knowledge and experience base and the value that you can bring to an organisation.

    I see the term 'older workers' as being another phrase for age discrimination.  Surely an older worker is anyone working beyond the accepted age of retirement i.e. 65?  Should we not agree what we mean when we refer to our employees (and ourselves) in this way so that we are not writing out a group of highly valued and valuable people? 

    Given that people are living longer and we will have a group of highly experienced employees amongst us for longer than was previously the case what strategies do we have in place to motivate them and ensure they feel valued.  How do we integrate those younger and less experienced employees with this group?

    In 2011 the government stated that "Over the next decade, the changing age profile of the workforce will be the most significant development in the UK labour market, as a third of workers will be over 50 by 2020".  How are we preparing ourselves for this change?

    Look forward to seeing other members comments.

  • There is no sensible definition of what an older worker is and your suggested definition of "over the accepted retirement age" is as dangerous and problematic as any other.

    Did you see Mikes thread the other day on the over 50s
  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    30 May, 2017 16:45

    In reply to Melanie :

    Hi Melanie - I've merged your thread with the one I started last week. Hope that's OK - they cover the same ground.


  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    30 May, 2017 16:45

    In reply to Keith:

    I've merged the threads :)
  • In reply to Julie:

    Even at 42 - and a young-looking 42, at that! :D - I've encountered similar experiences, Julie.

    It's a curious thing that, talking to senior people at the HRD Summit in February about this - in my capacity as the representative of a charity for older people and the context of the 100-year-life as key theme of the event - everyone I spoke to agreed that organizations needed to readjust their perspective on age. A 50-year-old employee could now easily have another 25 years of working life even before accounting for later-life flexibility. But whilst everyone agrees it needs to happen, there's a problem: competition.

    The diminishing size of the new employee pool means that this is where the real competition for talent is taking place and everyone is falling over themselves to accommodate the needs and expectations of new millennials entering the workforce (which isn't, I hasten to add, a bad thing). But there is a glut of over-50s that is only likely to increase. As a result, there are no market pressures to accommodate this group or its needs.

    One place that's offering a potential "fix" is Applied, the commercial arm of the Behavioural Insights Team (a.k.a the Nudge Unit): www.beapplied.com/about

    They have developed an ATS that is specifically designed to capture competencies and to avoid tainting selector's assumptions through information - direct or indirect - about age, race, gender or any of the other cues that spark up our unconscious bias. I've not used it myself, but did get a chance to chat to the CEO there and if I were working for a larger, more cash-rich organization that was keen to maximize its talent rather than its self-image then this is the tool I'd be pressing for.
  • Working in Local Government, we seem to have the opposite problem (and we do not seem to be the only ones experiencing this nationally)! Our largest age group is 45-55 and we are struggling to recruit the under 25's so as to balance out an ageing workforce for succession planning etc.
    I also know from personal experience of a family member that after being made redundant in his 50s he really struggled to find work and even Agency work dried up after a while.
  • In reply to Clare:

    Hi Clare

    I've been around in HR for a long time and am surprised that nowadays any organisation would consider succession planning more than about three years ahead to be viable. So even your 55 year old will only be 58 at that point - almost ten years away from state pension eligibility. (Yes folks it's currently 67 and still rising!).

    Are we not in danger of justifying our behaviour by hiding behind HR processes? Employers have jobs to be done. There are skills out there in the workforce. The age of the applicant should be immaterial.
  • In reply to Anna:

    Well we haven't quite reached looking at Succession planning yet, but being Local Government we want to promote a more balanced age profile - particularly to encourage the under 25's.
    Yes definitely agree with age is immaterial - should be whoever is best skilled for the role.
  • In reply to Clare:

    I find this very interesting, and personally I agree with Julie and her comments. Having just reached the age of 57 (and received a 30 year certificate from the CIPD in recognition of my services to HR) I feel it is one of the areas of discrimination that is overlooked, and where there is often bias. As Julie says, people can easily work how old you are from a form and if I have to put all my employment history on application forms, it feels as if I'm writing War and Peace, as I started work in 1984.

    I am pleased to say that I have recently secured a new role, I was in fact invited to four interviews (so I must be getting something right).

    I do agree that it is about the best person for the role, but people do make judgements and assumptions (often based on not very much) about an 'older' worker.