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How to retain older workers and why

With an ageing population, retaining older workers is critical to bridging the labour gap

By 2020, a third of the UK workforce will be over the age of 50. Many businesses are already recognising the benefits of employing older people, but the mature worker sector is one that needs to be tapped into more.

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That’s because it’s estimated there will be only 7 million young people available to fill 14.5 job vacancies by 2022 – leaving a labour shortage of 7.7 million people.

What do older workers want and what do they offer your company?

Flexible working
Older workers tend to have a strong work ethic, but many appreciate flexible schedules. That’s largely because they have more life commitments revolving around family, caring for others, volunteer work and hobbies.

Offering mature employees more flexible working hours is a good way of encouraging them to stay with you longer.

This can be through part-time work, job sharing, home working, unpaid leave and even consultancy work. Flexible working means they can honour their outside commitments while still providing a valuable contribution to your business.

Training opportunities
Contrary to popular belief, mature workers are open to learning new skills and not as set in their ways as many people think. Many are au fait with the latest technologies and keen to expand their skill set.

Because older workers are able to draw upon a wealth of work and life experience, training them is often easier – and cheaper – than teaching younger employees from scratch.

On-going training opportunities boost skills and job satisfaction levels across the board, which can only be good for your business.

Mentoring younger employees
Older workers have already climbed the career ladder, and may not be as ambitious as they once were. They are often more motivated by the desire to share their knowledge with others.

Your business can benefit greatly from this by arranging for an experienced worker to mentor a younger employee. Just as in life, the business world can gain a great deal from encouraging the passing on of wisdom from old to young.

Mentoring is a cost-effective way to train younger employees, as long as mutual respect is there and there is a willingness to learn and share.

Wellness initiatives
Older workers value wellness programmes and other health incentives. A workforce that is in tip-top condition improves attendance, lowers stress levels and increases productivity.

Health benefits packages are a good way to show older members of staff that you care about their welfare. Regular health checks can help you preserve the contribution of an ageing workforce.

Phased retirement
Many businesses are all too aware that they need to try to prolong the expertise of their long-standing employees.

The good news is that retirement doesn’t have to be a set event – it can be a gradual process whereby a worker reduces his or her hours slowly over a long period of time.

This delays the loss of their skills and knowledge. As long as they’re in good health, this arrangement can suit both worker and business well.