Brian Beach: How can employers support older staff in the workplace?

The need to identify policies and strategies to retain older workers will grow ever more crucial into the future as the age profile of the labour market changes.¬†The missing million: recommendations for action¬†research, published in April 2015,¬†by the International Longevity Centre ‚Äď UK (ILC-UK) in our Missing Million series, supported by Business in the Community, highlighted several approaches businesses could adopt to become more age-friendly and enhance their retention of older workers. There are two particular themes that intersect many of these recommendations: planning and flexibility.

Planning is important for both the employer as well as the employee. Businesses that develop a comprehensive understanding of the age structure of their workforce can more readily recognise impending skills gaps as staff exit into retirement. This would enhance recruitment, but would also foster more effective progression planning and allow business to engage in knowledge transfer so it can retain the skills and expertise of its older employees who leave. An efficient way to promote planning across the board would be to implement mid-life career reviews, which engage employees and managers in discussions around retirement planning, skills development, and further opportunities in the workplace.

Flexibility is also a key theme that frames a number of effective business approaches to retaining older workers. A number of changes in work and society serve as drivers for enhanced workplace flexibility, and successful employers of the future are likely to be those that adapt beyond traditional career and employment models.

Home-based working, for example, made ever more possible through technology, can enhance wellbeing and work-life balance. Employers can also introduce flexibility into the retirement process to offer transitional or phased exits from work.

Perhaps the most crucial area for increased flexibility relates to ever-growing informal care needs; employers must strive to develop policies and initiatives that support carers and enable employees to effectively combine work and care responsibilities.

Dr Brian Beach is research fellow at the¬†International Longevity Centre ‚Äď UK (ILC-UK)