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5 ways to make work better for older workers 

Improving the workplace to benefit older workers will benefit all workers, regardless of age. Timewise and The Centre for Ageing Better have joined forces to empower managers to create more inclusive workplaces.

By Amy Butterworth, Consultancy Director 

Employers are facing a mounting list of challenges, from skills and labour shortages to a tightening economy to adapting to changing workforce demographics, where 1 in 3 workers are now over the age of 50. However, not all employers recognise the importance of older workers or understand how to retain them. 

Workers in their 50s and 60s are willing to continue working later, albeit flexibly and yet many employers are still reluctant to offer flexible working options. While those who embrace flexible working will maximise the benefits of multi-generational workforces and be the leading employers of the next decade – maximising the knowledge, skills and talents of all ages.  

We know first-hand the importance and value of older workers because our organisations came together in 2023 to create inclusive workplaces. Timewise is a proud supporter of The Centre for Ageing Better’s (CFAB) Age-Friendly Employer Pledge, a nationwide programme for employers committed to improving work for people in their 50s and 60s, and is helping to deliver some of the training.  

We’ve run three masterclasses for employers who are CFAB pledge signatories, focusing on designing flexible work, making the business case for flexible work for older workers and bringing about changes to organisational practices, behaviours and mindsets.  

In the masterclasses, managers focus on their role in influencing the way older workers experience work and how flexible roles can help with organisational challenges. Employers from different sectors and sizes shared similar experiences about older workers, who tend to feel less comfortable asking for flexibility than younger colleagues but provide valuable skills and knowledge that need to be protected. They also discussed the challenges of leading teams in multi-generational workplaces and balancing the needs and demands of a diverse workforce.  

Findings from CFAB’s State of Ageing Report 2023-24 showed that employment rates among older workers vastly differ between men and women, disabled and non-disabled people and different ethnic groups. We strongly believe that taking action as an age-friendly employer will confront ageism and contribute to a more equal workplace for all.  

Taking small steps to proactively build inclusive workplace cultures, where managers feel empowered to support flexible working for older workers will strengthen organisations and ripple across other groups within the workforce.   

Here’s our advice to help you develop an age-inclusive workplace culture… 

  1. Get to grips with employee data 

    Analyse workforce data by age to see where the biggest challenges are. Look at the age of new hires, promotions, training participants and exits. Are older applicants less likely to get interviews? Are employees in their 50s and 60s accessing training and development? Look at your employee survey scores. Does satisfaction and engagement differ with age? 
  1. Support open conversations 

    Create an environment where managers feel equipped to proactively raise age-related topics in conversations and employees feel comfortable in sharing how they feel. Encouraging open conversations will help challenge stereotypes and dispel negative perceptions that might be associated with age. Stereotypes about employers and certain industries can also exist. Focus on the flexibility and value these sectors offer.  
  1. Be flexible about flexible working 

    Flexibility attracts and retains workers in their 50s and 60s as it supports those who want to work. Flexible work supports older workers with caring responsibilities and managing their health – but it also can give space to get other things out of life. If a job can done flexibly, it can be done by anyone. Flexible working arrangements can make a huge difference to keeping a person in their 50s and 60s in work. Giving employees the opportunity to discuss and adjust their working patterns will go some way towards them staying in work and improve overall retention. 
  1. Empower and support line managers with flex 

    Line managers have direct contact with employees so it’s important to equip them with actionable support to have conversations about flexible working. Develop helpful resources, like a culture toolkit to support them with how to phrase language to use and where to go for more information. Consider how managers can help older workers feel comfortable asking for flex or aware that it’s even an option. It’s also worth thinking about the dynamics between younger line managers and older employees. In one masterclass, an employer shared that in their organisation, the wider the age gap between manager and employee, the higher likelihood of the employee leaving. Supporting and empowering line managers, who play a vital role in employee experience is vital. 
  1. Be upfront about flexible work 

    Rethink hiring processes to accommodate older workers’ needs. Our research shows that making job adverts more appealing to older workers does not deter younger workers. Avoid terms like ‘recent graduate’ and add a diversity statement that includes age-inclusivity. If you offer flexible work options, include part-time options in your job descriptions as 69% of job adverts don’t. Older workers probably won’t look at jobs that don’t mention part-time or flexible work.  

Our final word? Don’t put age diversity on hold any longer. It has the potential to bring value to organisations, benefiting not just those in their 50s and 60s but all groups within the workforce positively. We’re seeing some employers taking steps to address this issue, but not enough. Embracing age and a multigenerational workforce can increase productivity, profitability and make employees feel happier and engaged, why wait? 

Sign The Centre for Ageing Better’s Age-Friendly Employer Pledge and learn more about Timewise’s workshops and training, which can be tailored to your needs.  

Published April 2024 

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