Age diversity and experience is crucial for skills

Melanie Morris, Abbey: In a speech in June, the then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, John Hutton, highlighted that over the last fifty years, there has been a seismic shift in the balance between the proportions of life spent in work and retirement.

It is clear that in order to sustain the growth and momentum of the British economy, in the next few years the average retirement age is going to have to go up and employers will have to provide their staff with some very good reasons to continue working. It is imperative that employers consider their benefits package with this in mind. A more varied workforce will demand a tailored benefits offering that closely matches their lifestyle and needs.

Employers should not see this growing diversity as a threat, but rather as an opportunity to improve and boost business productivity. Flexibility is arguably one of the most important factors in an individual’s choice of career. Allowing employees to tailor their own benefit packages puts the power back in their hands and gives them a chance to make their personal and professional lives work in harmony.

At Abbey, we have introduced a system whereby each employee is considered on a case-by-case basis including those working part-time and job-sharing. These opportunities include: compressed working arrangements, allowing employees to work longer days each week to complete contractual hours in fewer days; the option for employees to ask to reduce their working hours in exchange for reduced pay and benefits for a period of between six months and five years, and reduced accountability career breaks for employees to downsize their work commitments to cope with additional demands outside of the workplace.

It is of great importance when introducing measures such as these that employers consider each employee on a case-by-case basis and not assign them benefits based on overly-simplified criteria such as age or gender. It also is important for those of us working in employee reward to take the time to listen to the views of our employees lest we find our changes are causing more harm than good.

Looking to the future, workforces are set to become increasingly diverse. In order for organisations to remain competitive, flexibility in the benefits offered to employees is critical in retaining a diverse workforce and in preserving the range of experiences and skills that age diversity presents.

Melanie Morris, head of reward and performance management, Abbey