Bridging the age gap
Older people, once discarded by companies in favour of younger employees, are making a comeback. An increasing number of firms are recognising the value of mature workers who bring with them a wealth of experience.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that between May and July 2016, 10.4% of those aged 65 and over were in employment – equivalent to 1.19 million people. This compares to half that number – 5.5% (equivalent to 478,000 people) between March and May 1992 (when the ONS first started recording this data).
This surge in the “silver” workforce is part-fuelled by a shortage of young workers, but also by companies and older people finding a perfect match, such as the need for part-time work.
For employers, there are a number of factors to bear in mind when taking on an older employee. The award-winning stairlift manufacturer Acorn Stairlifts has advised on the ways that a workplace can be modified so that they suit elderly employees, as well as provided tips on techniques that employers can use to provide better support to older staff members. It offers some useful tips for employers:
Make elderly staff members aware they are valuable to a business
Problems can quickly come about if an employer makes assumptions about what elderly staff members want once they hit a particular age but make the decision to remain in employment. Take out the guesswork by always having an open dialogue with staff members. Regular one-to-ones with line managers prove very useful here, as they allow employees to get things off their chest or query aspects of their work in a private and confidential environment. As an employer, keep reminding staff that your door is always open.
Never allow people to hold the belief that your workplace is only catering for a certain demographic or age group. Well-known pub chain JD Wetherspoon is keen to ensure its workforce is incredibly broad, with its former recruitment manager Sarah Carter pointing out to Caterer.com: “Some people’s perception of our industry is that it’s a youth-oriented one. So, while we were very good at employing students, we’d always struggled to attract applications from the older age bracket. We still get people ringing up saying, ‘I’m 45 – am I too old for a bar manager job?’. The answer is absolutely no way!”
There are a few unique benefits linked to a workforce that is diverse — something that elderly people can assist in providing to a business. Ms. Carter explains: “One of our older workers said he felt he had a great rapport with our customers, because some of them are more comfortable talking to staff their own age.”
Full-time work needn’t be the only opportunity for employment
The standard 9 ‘til 5 shift between Monday and Friday will not be appealing to some members of staff, in particular those who are getting older. Flexible hours and part-time roles could suit them much better.
Part-time work provides employees with shorter working weeks, something that older staff members are especially likely to appreciate. This is because it will give them an opportunity to transition out of the workforce in a smoother manner. Meanwhile, flexible working will grant older employees the chance to remain in employment while better balancing their other responsibilities — perhaps they need to care for an elderly loved one.
Review the accessibility and ergonomic aspects of a workplace
There are numerous ways to adjust a workplace so that it becomes a lot more appealing to elderly members of staff. For one, take the time to assess your workspace and the tasks performed during a day’s work to ensure that nothing could be contributing to musculoskeletal issues, making adjustments and improvements where necessary. Can mechanical assist devices be introduced to achieve less stressful handling, for instance? How about a platform being used to raise a worker so that they don’t have to bend their wrists as much while working? Obviously, the measures will be different depending on the type of industry you’re a part of.
Have you also considered how accessible a workplace is for all your employees? Consider the distance someone must cover to get from their parking spot to their workspace, for example, as well as to and from either a break room or restroom once they are at work.
You’re sure to have spotted so many improvements that can be made to your workplace once this evaluation is complete. If the workplace is not on the ground floor or over multiple floors, look at installing either a straight or curved stairlift on the stairs so that nobody has trouble navigating across levels. Automatic doors should make entering a building quicker too, while altering a layout so that workspaces are closer to break rooms could prove beneficial to both the employee and business.