Seasoned workers – those in the UK workforce over the age of 50 years – are comprised of some of the most experienced and skilled talent in the UK. Yet, more than 3.5 million people aged 50-64 years have opted out of the workforce – and this is a trend that is rapidly increasing. As a result, this has led to a growing skills and experience gap with 80% of UK businesses struggling to find the talent they need. Employers are met with the challenge of filling this gap and finding ways to attract new seasoned workers or coax the ones who have left to return.
However, a large proportion of this demographic could be enticed to return to work with the right offering. According to a 2022 government report, nearly 760,000 people aged between 50 and 64 years are either actively seeking work, or are inactive but are willing or would like to work. This is an eager and waiting workforce that could almost wipe out the UK’s current labour shortage in one fell swoop.
The true cost to businesses
One consequence of the seasoned worker exodus is institutional knowledge of processes and products being lost forever. Despite reskilling and upskilling efforts for new or younger employees, certain knowledge cannot be recovered. This ‘brain drain’ can have a severe impact on a business, and is creating a vast hole in the UK labour force that organisations cannot adequately fill.
But the loss of skills and experience is not the only effect of seasoned workers leaving the workforce. Business income and expenditure are being significantly impacted in this process. According to a report from the Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise, the loss of seasoned workers results in an estimated £88 billion in lost revenue per year. In addition to this lost revenue, the average cost of recruiting replacements is over £6,000. These figures will only continue to grow if they are not addressed.
Lower employment rates amongst the 50-64 age group are estimated to cost the UK economy over £88bn in lost economic output.
It doesn’t have to be like this
Many seasoned workers are leaving the workforce for resolvable issues. If businesses are going to address the UK’s talent shortage, they need to understand the reasons why many leave and why they do with reluctance. Whilst sickness, injury and disability continue to be major reasons why people between age 50 and 64 years leave work, many leave for other reasons that businesses can address – and in doing so this can lead to higher productivity and better results.
- No longer want to work a nine to five:
As seasoned workers continue to age, their needs and desires change, meaning they need more time to manage the other crucial areas of their lives. As a result, they no longer want to work a nine to five, five days a week. Employers can address these needs by implementing flexible working. With this system the employer can offer flexible start and end times or remote working, helping to provide a healthy work-life balance, with the increase in personal free time which will motivate these workers to be more productive and efficient.
- Desire for more meaningful work:
Meaningful work holds a great significance for seasoned workers. After years of experience and expertise, they seek roles that provide a sense of purpose and fulfilment. Without this, they may feel disengaged and unappreciated, leading to decreased motivation and job satisfaction. To address this, employers should prioritise meaningful work so seasoned workers are not left to feel redundant in their positions.
- Ageism in the workplace:
For many seasoned workers there is a consciousness of age discrimination, whether it be expressed overtly or covertly. As part of a company’s DEIB policy, ageism should not be tolerated in the workplace. Employers have a responsibility to clearly communicate this to employees, fostering a safe working environment that rejects all forms of discrimination.
Turning seasoned workers into future workers
Based on data from UK Government, 58% of seasoned workers aged 50 to 60 years and 31% aged over 60 would consider returning to work. Businesses should seize this opportunity and meet seasoned workers in the middle. One effective approach is to adopt a five-step programme. By implementing this programme, businesses can effectively address the challenges of retaining seasoned workers.
- Update and adjust current and future workforce plans:
This includes assessing where the skills gaps are in the current workforce and what skills will be needed to meet the organisation’s long-term operational goals.
- Conduct a skills assessment of your workforce with a focus on your seasoned workers:
Analyse which skills or roles will become obsolete and which skills are transferrable, along with which workers can be upskilled or reskilled and where gaps will remain.
- How your organisation will fill the skills gaps that remain:
Employers should look at implementing initiatives for recruitment and reskilling that will appeal to seasoned workers. As a group that are looking for meaningful work, it is important to offer them better opportunities that will sharpen their skill sets and extend their working life.
- Adjust operations to accommodate the needs of seasoned workers:
This step involves offering flexible working structures, support to alleviate mental stress, more choice over salary or consultancy pay, and removal of age bias in the workplace.
- Maintain open dialogue with your seasoned workers:
Having conversations with your seasoned workers will offer a better understanding of their needs and desires, leading to a healthier work relationship and positive outputs from workers.
58% of seasoned workers aged 50 to 60 years would consider returning to the workforce
It’s worth noting the importance of management to the equation. Managers are the talent scouts in your organisation, meaning they are in the best position to identify and reskill high-potential seasoned workers. However, managers are often constrained by lack of time, poor belief in their effectiveness, and few tangible incentives to fulfil their role as an incubator. To succeed, they must be offered suitable incentives to manage differently. Where managers cannot adjust to the requirements needed to recruit, retain or reskill seasoned workers, their role in the process should be eliminated and new managers hired to conduct and oversee seasoned worker programmes.
A win/win situation
For many organisations, their best future employees are their current ones, who possess deep knowledge of processes, products and systems. Training these workers to address skill gaps is often more efficient and impactful than recruiting new talent and guiding them to full effectiveness. This may be especially true with seasoned workers, who bring a wealth of valuable experience to the table. Reskilling can further develop these transferable skills to make them star performers and a valuable asset to the business.
To encourage seasoned workers to stay or return and foster a successful partnership between businesses and these individuals, employers must embrace nuance and agility. This means recognising the unique needs and preferences of seasoned workers and being flexible in accommodating their requirements. By offering meaningful work opportunities that align with their skills and interests, as well as flexible work arrangements that respond to their needs, businesses can create an environment where seasoned workers feel valued and motivated to contribute their expertise.
If you are interested in learning more about retaining seasoned workers and enticing those who have left to return, take a look at the full report available today.