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How to Create an Inclusive Workplace for Older Workers

In a recent ViewHR blog, we discussed strategies employers can employ to engage younger workers such as apprentices and those on Kickstart placements.

There are many benefits to employers of recruiting and retaining a diverse team, including a greater range of perspectives and improved employee motivation. As such, it is important that employers consider how they can engage employees from a range of demographics. Research by Ageing Better has identified that unemployment among over 50s has risen by a third since 2019, and a third of over 50s believe they have been turned down to a job due to their age.  In this blog we therefore consider how employers can create an engaging workplace for older workers (we certainly do not think over 50 is old for anyone reading this!!!). Here are our top tips:

Review your recruitment processes

Given the statistic from Ageing Better above, it is important that not only are your processes inclusive, but that they also appear to be inclusive from the point of view of the applicant. This can help boost your employer brand, and reduce the risk of discrimination claims. The CIPD have issued guidance on how recruitment processes can be improved with this in mind, which is available here.

Tips include anonymising CVs when shortlisting, and testing job advert wording for suitability – for example, the wording “We are seeking vibrant people looking to make a mark early in their career” may not directly reference agree, but could still risk discriminating against older prospective applicants.

Training is also important to support implementation of revised processes. It can be beneficial to ensure that any such training considers the topic of unconscious bias, to help reduce the risk of managers making assumptions about applicants based on their age.

Value Experience

Many older workers may have a lot of experience in their field.  Where this is the case, recognising this by asking for views and information, can have an important motivational effect.  Likewise, micromanaging or inadvertently patronising somebody by telling them how to do something they have done many times before, can be demoralising.

However, this will not be the case for all older workers – people can choose to start a career in a new field at any time in life, and so it is important not to leave an employee feeling stranded without the information they need to do their job.  It is also important not to overlook the skills and expertise of younger works (e.g. by assuming an older worker has more relevant experience, and as a result always seeking their opinion over that of others).

It is therefore important that line managers are familiar with the skills and experience of their team members, and/or feel confident asking (e.g. “Who is experienced with Pivot tables, please, as I would benefit some input on something” or “I’d like you to do something with Photoshop- have you used it much before?”), rather than making assumptions.

And speaking of making assumptions – take care not to assume that older workers do not have the appropriate IT skills to do their job!

Consider the Individual

A common root of discrimination in the workplace can be assumptions, e.g. a woman in her 30s is going to go on maternity leave soon, men don’t have any caring responsibilities, older people will all want to retire at the state retirement age, etc.  However, these assumptions are often incorrect, and it is important to understand the individual and consider their needs. 

One example of this identified by Age UK is supporting employees who are experiencing menopause symptoms. Here at ViewHR we recently published a blog on this topic, which is available here.

The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) also recommend offering phased retirement options to employees when they identify that they would like to retire. This presents many opportunities to meet the needs of the individual, whilst also planning for their succession and not losing all of their skills and knowledge from the business overnight.

Here at ViewHR we are able to support employers to create a diverse and inclusive workforce in a range of ways, including training, policy and development of organisational culture. To discuss these options and any specific questions or concerns you may have, please do not hesitate to get in touch.