We hear from many employers who are struggling to find candidates to fill their roles. A number of challenging scenarios in recent years, such as the pandemic and Brexit, have meant that there are simply fewer applicants for roles across a number of industries and role types.

Yet we believe that part of the solution to this problem could come from finding and retaining over 50s talent. This is the fastest growing part of the UK workforce – according to the ONS, the employment rate of 50-64 year-olds has increased from 56% to 71% in the last 30 years. Meanwhile, almost all population growth in the next 20 years is predicted to be from this demographic.

So we brought together leaders from a number of progressive organisations that are focusing on the opportunity of hiring and engaging workers over 50.

Here are some of the key takeaways from that discussion…

Almost one-third of the UK workforce is now over 50 – and this is going to rise

Age inclusivity is no longer something that’s nice for businesses to have – it needs to be an essential part of every company’s hiring strategy.

The reason for this boils down to some key data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS)…

  • 70% of the UK’s employment growth over the last 30 years has come from workers aged 50 or over
  • Almost one-third (32%) of the workforce is now over 50
  • Birth rates are declining and life expectancy is on the rise, which means that fewer young people are entering the workforce. Meanwhile, the employment rate of 50-64 year-olds has increased from 56% to 71% in 30 years.

The UK's leading work and careers site for the over 50s

Rest Less is the UK’s fastest growing digital membership community, built to inspire the over 50s – through jobs, advice, volunteering, courses, health, lifestyle and more.

If you’re looking to recruit age diverse candidates from our talent pool of one million members, we’d be delighted to help you.

Get in touch

But people over 50 often experience discrimination when applying for jobs…

While employment growth has been driven by experienced workers over the last 30 years, there are still more than 600,000 over 50s who are economically inactive – some of whom were made redundant or experienced long-term sickness during the pandemic.

Sadly, age discrimination plays a significant role in preventing many over 50s from returning to work. And, this means that, with such a huge pool of skills and experience available among older workers, employers could be missing out on invaluable opportunities to hire top talent.

Ageism in the workforce can take various forms and may be direct or subtle. However, some common forms of age discrimination include…

  • Being told they’re overqualified for a role, and therefore may be difficult to manage, get bored, and move on quickly
  • Making assumptions that over 50s aren’t tech-savvy or will be too expensive to hire
  • Choosing not to hire someone because it would be similar to working with mum or dad
  • Not offering the same workplace training opportunities for older workers as younger workers

These examples of ageism can mean that once over 50s are made redundant, they’re more likely to face long-term unemployment, which can reduce confidence and impact mental and physical health.

Multigenerational teams are happier and more productive

We already know that over 50s can bring a wealth of skills and experience to the workplace, as well as a passion that comes from a desire to give something back – and lots of companies are already seeing the value that this can bring.

Deborah Mills, CEO at Now Teach, said, “We have a Google engineer who is now a maths teacher, but he runs AI classes as an enrichment in his schools. He’s had to put on even more because they’re so popular.

“This is a really perfect example of someone who has come out of the commercial world, wants to give something back, and is able to tap into those skills they’ve learned over the years and that level of expertise, to bring something to children that no one else could probably bring them.”

There are also plenty of other benefits to engaging with age in the workplace.

For example…

  • Older workers often have lower attrition rates than younger employees
  • Multigenerational teams can increase customer satisfaction. Research shows that customer satisfaction in fast-food restaurants was 20% higher where at least one worker was over 60 – and an overwhelming 84% of customers said they like to see a mix of ages in the restaurant
  • Intergenerational teams are happier, have great diversity throughout, and foster two-way mentoring relationships.

Kim Chaplain, Specialist Advisor at Centre for Ageing Better, also said, “A really good report that was published in December 2019 by the OECD directly links multi-generational teams to productivity and clearly illustrates that a multi-generational team is more productive.

“[…] It shows how much more productive younger people can be when they’re working in a team alongside older workers. So you don’t necessarily see an increase in productivity in the elder worker – which is probably why they’re not as valued as they should be – but their influence on the younger worker is absolutely remarkable.”

Flexible working conditions can be a powerful way to attract over 50s talent – and more companies are recognising this

While celebrating the benefits that age inclusivity can bring to the workplace is important, it’s just as important for employers to consider how they can appeal to and re-engage over 50s in the labour market.

Kim said, “People tend to segment protected characteristics – with age and disability often being left out. But if you make age a priority it can uplift and benefit everyone.

For example, if you look at flexibility which is a clear attraction for older workers and a lack of it is one of the things that causes them to disengage from the labour market, then offering it would benefit everybody.”

With nearly half of self-employed workers and 40% of part-time workers being over the age of 50 (ONS), this would suggest that many of them are looking for greater flexibility – and this understanding could be invaluable for employers when it comes to hiring and retaining people in this age category.

So what are progressive employers currently doing to implement and promote this?

“We've had to get used to coming away from asking candidates, ‘Would you like full-time or part-time?’ That doesn't really mean anything anymore I believe – and actually the question is more around, ‘How many hours would you like to work and when would you like to work these hours?’”

“The big challenge we came up against was people feeling like if they weren't on a full-time contract, what impact would that have on their development? Because they still want to develop, learn, and grow within the organisation. For example, ‘If I work 20 hours and the person sitting next to me works 40 hours, is there a difference in my development?’ The reality is no – it should be about delivery, execution, and input, and what you bring to the organisation in terms of contribution as opposed to presenteeism and how many hours you do.

“We recognised quite early on that – particularly if you've got people in their 50s who may have taken early retirement – the last thing they really want to do is commit to the sort of slightly brutal regime of teacher training [...] “We developed a very condensed form of teacher training with Arc Academies, which has actually become something of a template for the rest of the sector. But we’re also working with the National Institute for Teaching to make the idea of being able to train flexibly an attractive thing, so that you don't have to change your life entirely to open up this opportunity [...]

There’s strength in numbers – age-diverse employers should come together to promote change

At Rest Less, we’re already doing all that we can to connect with over 50s talent with age-diverse employers through our jobs boards and content.

However, the Centre for Ageing Better has also launched an Age-Friendly Employer Pledge. This powerful initiative is designed to bring organisations together to say very publicly that we need to see this movement of change when it comes to attracting over 50s talent.

Kim said, “There’s a lot to be gained from working with an organisation similar to you that has solved the problem that you are facing in terms of retention and recruitment.

“The pledge requires people to publicly say they will take one action against a framework of five pillars in a 12-month period and it provides support in the framework, as well as opportunities for organisations to talk to each other about those action areas.

“We have a collective responsibility to improve the labour market and make it better for everyone that’s over 50 […] as we’re all going to be there at some point so we have a personal vested interest as well as a corporate interest.”

You can read more about the pledge on the Centre for Ageing Better’s website.

The UK's leading work and careers site for the over 50s

Rest Less is the UK’s fastest growing digital membership community, built to inspire the over 50s – through jobs, advice, volunteering, courses, health, lifestyle and more.

If you’re looking to recruit age diverse candidates from our talent pool of one million members, we’d be delighted to help you.

Get in touch

Watch – How employers are attracting talent over 50

These are just a few key points from the hour-long webinar, so if you’d like to watch the full discussion, you can do so here.

Final thoughts…

With birth rates declining, life expectancy on the rise, and society redefining what it means to retire, employment growth is being driven by experienced workers.

Therefore, it’s now essential for employers to consider how they can make age inclusivity a core part of their hiring strategy if they’re to avoid missing out on hiring top talent.

To talk to us about how you could create a thriving age-diverse workforce, you can email us at [email protected]. or get in touch here.

Is your company taking steps to attract over 50s talent? What successes have you seen from incorporating age inclusivity into your strategy? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.