The Western world is undergoing a demographic decline. The western term means not only the United States, Western Europe or Japan but also China and Eastern Europe. There is a growing average age in the population, and this is having a substantial impact on communities, social systems, countries and the world of work. Over 30/40 years, the average age will increase from around 40 to around 50 years. Jobs that require specialized skills involve an increase in the age of the workforce between 5 and 10 years in a single decade. (Leibold and Voelpel, 2006). The gaps due to the lack of qualified persons, with specific abilities, cannot be filled by the so-called Millenials (generation of those born between the 80s and 90s) due to numerical questions.
The UKCES (UK Commission for Employment and Skills) has proposed that between 2012 and 2022, 14 million jobs will be available but only 7 million, will be filled by young people. By 2020 the generation born between the 80s and 90s will be only 50% of the global workforce.
The British population is ageing, which means that there is a higher number of older workers, over 65, available on the labour market. The data show an increase, by 2022, of 400,000 people over the age of 50, or 30% of the workforce (http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/,2017).
Challenges (positive or negative) are emerging for businesses, that may be overcome dynamically and persistently are emerging.
Aubrey De Gray, physician and chief scientist of the SENS Research Foundation (2011) announced that the first person who could live up to 150 years was born, as doctors will soon be able to delay ageing.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) researched in this regard, stating that:
- Life expectancy for males is 79.30, and for women, it is 83 years by 2039.
- The retirement age has increased from 61.2 years to 62.3 years for women 63.8 years to 64.6 years for men years to 62.3, between 2004 and 2010 (https://www.hrmagazine.co.uk, 2016).
- The world of work for the over-65s is similar to that between 16 and 64 years old.
- 448,000 women and 742,000 men over 65 worked in the United Kingdom from May to July 2016.
- By 2039 they will be present in the world of work increasingly over 65.
- Part-time self-employed workers tend to be older than the average age of self-employed workers. (https://www.ons.gov.uk/,2016)
OFFICE FOR NATIONAL STATISTICS CHART
Office for national statistics (www.ons.gov.uk,2016) reported this chart below (2019); on the left axis percentage of population aged 65+, on the central axis the years (from 1992 to September 2019)
Research has shown that in the United Kingdom, there is alarming discrimination based on age. Pensions Minister Ros Altmann (2016), said ‘The unconscious prejudice is happening in the business. It is this automatic assumption, this social and national perception that once you have reached the end of the 50s you are on a downhill track and soon you will leave, so let’s focus on all the others, ‘she says.’ The people of that band of age they are grouped in a box regardless of their characteristics and abilities.’ (www.hrmagazine.co.uk,2016)
The 2014 CIPD report showed that one-fifth of companies (22%) do not have the suitability to ensure that older employees can keep their skills up to date. Older workers are neglected in the development and training sector. The same company policies often require the worker to retire past a certain age. The over 65s are also discriminated because they earn more, by seniority. It is present on widespread unconscious prejudice related to age. Racism and sexism are not accepted as age discrimination. This is because age is an objective fact; everyone feels confident in claiming a certain authority. (www.hrmagazine.co.uk,2016)
BENEFIT FROM EMPLOYING OLDER WORKFORCE
There are many benefits to consider by employing over 65 workforces:
- The default retirement age has been removed, so employers can no longer force employees to withdraw only because they reach a certain age.
- Experience is not studied; it is an evolutionary process, which occurs over time.
- Considerable emotional intelligence has been developed over the years
- The increase in the ageing of the population has a substantial impact on world markets, with the marketing of products and services aimed at people over 65.
- Exchanges and collaborations between generations. Seniors can be tutors for the new generations.
- Medicine and technology are revolutionizing the well-being of the person and health care benefits from this.
- Fundamental benefits in society and companies brought by older people: talent, experience and philanthropy.
- Substantial increase in policies aimed at facilitating financial security to increase life expectancy.
- Cities and infrastructures are becoming increasingly accessible to all ages, especially over 65. This facilitates the civic contribution of the so-called seniors. (Irving and Paul H.,2014)
- If 1.2 million older workers, currently unemployed, were in full-time employment, they could add up to £ 25 billion a year to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and up to £ 9 billion if part-time. ( www.hrmagazine.co.uk,2016)
Ann Brown (2016), director of human resources at Nationwide, said that the company needs employees who correspond to the community in which the company operates. Therefore, a balanced component, even in the age of workers. ( www.hrmagazine.co.uk,2016)
All the technological innovations, the optimal organization of work and consequently of free time, globalization and a capitalist system that is advancing more and more, have had a substantial impact on British society. Nowadays much more time is spent outside the home, among a thousand work or recreational commitments. However, social relations remain a key factor for each individual, regardless of age. The consequences can often fall on elderly people who do not work or who for various reasons are cut off from social connections by the system. This creates chain reactions, such as isolation, frustration and loneliness. (Christina Victor, Sasha Scambler and John Bond, 2009).
Many 50-year-olds are supporting their children and elderly parents, so they cannot pay attention to their pensions. So they will probably need to work over the age of 65. ( www.hrmagazine.co.uk,2016).
An example of benefits comes from Epping Forest College (case study):
Epping Forest College offers professional courses such as scientific laboratories, beauty salons, theatre dance studios, in specialized facilities. The college’s workforce includes: almost 40% of staff are over 50; 10% over 60 years and few people 70. The maintenance of older and more experienced staff satisfies the business needs, as the over 65 staff is appreciated for the quality of its work and its reliability. The college’s head of human resources stated that ageing workforce is more reliable, they do not get sick often, and they do not go away for a long time. The general lack of qualified people in specialized sectors means that recruitment in these sectors is almost impossible. Another benefit is to employ older workers as teachers by sharing their experience and knowledge with other members and with students. Thus a chain reaction of knowledge is engaged.
(Employer case studies: Employing older workers for an effective multi-generational workforce, 2011)
CHALLENGES FROM EMPLOYING OLDER WORKFORCE
As confirmed by Rachael Saunders (2016), director of Age At Work for Business in the Community (BITC), keeping workers over 65 longer in the workplace has become a survival challenge.
The 2014 CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) report showed that only a fifth of the companies surveyed had or were developing a strategy to address the issue.
Most companies deal with the fact in a reactive, rather than proactive (ie planning a real strategy).
31% will address the problem as soon as they have a massacre, while 15% have not even considered the fact.
There will be a clash / meeting of multiple generations on the job, up to 5 generations working together.
This can lead to conflicts and problems.
A challenge is to try to ensure that the age issue is prioritized by social and corporate policies.
Another is the training and management of work in a multigenerational team: people are the result of different life and work experiences so they will have different working approaches. At a general level there is a concern that generational stereotypes allow us to dodge legislation concerning age discrimination (www.hrmagazine.co.uk, 2016).
The challenges to be faced in strategies and human resource management will be important. Attention must be paid to modern leadership strategies, concepts in health management, how to facilitate the acquisition of new knowledge. Consideration is also given to new ideas relating to diversity and innovation. Given the increasing age, companies will have to invest in their employees over 65, supporting their talents, helping them to learn new information and consequently keep them in the company. At the same time, the challenge will be to increase productivity, search for new products and also include external experts. (Leibold and Voelpel, 2006).
WEST MIDLANDS POLICE
An example of challenge and barriers is West Midlands Police (case study). The workforce is ageing and above all for this type of work, those over 65 require flexible models. It is not a type of work where you know when you enter and when you leave, long shifts are also required. Requires flexibility as shifts must cover the 24 hours of the day for 7 days. There is, therefore, an incompatibility between personal life, family and sometimes caring responsibilities. (Employer case studies: Employing older workers for an effective multi-generational workforce, 2011)
Various actionable recommendations related to the topic:
It is necessary to maintain an open line of communication, regular conversations since life expectancy is changing and consequently, the way people shape their lives. In this way, companies are continuously informed about the future wishes and wishes of their workers.
This can be done by creating inclusion strategies so as to avoid discrimination, ensuring that recruitment panels are prepared to recognise unconscious prejudices.
Why is it essential to do this?
Pensions minister Ros Altmann (2016) states that what is measured is managed, so it is necessary to monitor and monitor the age of the staff in each step, from hiring to retirement. This process would have to be done in order to avoid that when possible older workers with particular abilities leave the company, the latter will not be caught unprepared, with negative consequences on the market. To avoid the surprise effect.
In the event that it would be too costly to keep so many workers over 65, companies will be able to take into consideration the retribution of people more for their work than for their seniority. Workers may prefer to do stimulating work and renounce salary benefits.
The basic concept is flexibility. It is a crucial point in formulating strategies.
Dixon (2016) of The Center for Aging Better, states that there may be a risk that those over 65 will leave work to take care of a family member. Supporting policies could be of great help to caregivers. A research conducted by Aviva has confirmed the fact that 50over workers require flexibility, intellectual stimulation and a good salary to be encouraged to stay in the working world.
Helping the worker with support groups, information, flexibility. Furthermore having experience and developed emotional intelligence, they can be reinserted into the work system as teachers, trainers, mentors.
An example, reported by Minister Altmann, is that of BMW. German car manufacturer, globally famous. BWM found that work was becoming physically too heavy for experienced senior engineers, so it introduced a series of facilities such as brighter lighting, seats to make it easier to sit and places to rest. All this has led to a significant boost to productivity. Another important recommendation is to provide elderly employees who are not familiar with the technology with the necessary support, through intergenerational tutoring.
Human resources should break down age barriers, clarifying to employees that the differences within a generation are similar to those of all ages. Communicate in advance with older employees, to know and understand their moods, their requests to implement preventive operations (see BMW). Will be a fundamental strategy for the survival of many companies. (www.hrmagazine.co.uk,2016)
Increase what the Jobcentre Plus is doing, by informing citizens of these possibilities:
- Courses to develop skills in English, IT and mathematics.
- Apprenticeship (not only for young people).
- Self-Employment is a popular option. It allows older workers to take advantage of experience, develop knowledge and have control over their working lives.
- Offer flexible and part-time jobs.
- Career review through Career advice and Skills Health Check.
- Work combination and grandchildren.
- If an elderly decide to continue working, once reach retirement age, he/she will no longer have to pay national insurance. (www.gov.uk,2017)
Other suggestions for actionable recommendations come from the policies undertaken by EPPING COLLEGE (case study):
- Ensure that managers and supervisors are aware that they are not allowed to use age as a means of discrimination.
- The staff evaluation system in the college has been strengthened to ensure that employees of all ages are managed in a consistent and equitable manner, including considering older workers for growth opportunities.
A radical change in working life is taking place, due to demographics, sociological and technological changes. In future working life, flexibility, breaks and a ‘partial’ commitment will be required.
So the role of human resources will be more useful than ever to keep organisations competitive. To do this, HR managers must realize and consequently make others aware, that age is just a number.
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