Working Late – The Impact of an Ageing Workforce

When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a payslip,
Performance review and benefits plan?

*Loosely based on the work of Sir Paul McCartney

In 2020, nearly a third of the UK workforce will be over 50.

The idea of working into our later years is not a new one, but it has significant knock on effects for the future of work.

The UK is not alone – this pattern also continues across much of Europe.  This means that HR Directors and other leaders must recognise the need to explore the challenge of the ageing workforce.

Sir Paul McCartney celebrated his 64th birthday 8 years ago and shows no signs of slowing down.  For every millionaire, there will be millions of workers who are eligible to retire but will not necessarily be financially able to do so.  The number of older workers will only increase as time goes on as retirement age steadily creeps up.

To this end a research project has been created at Loughborough University called simply
Working Late. It aims to explore the various issues and concerns around older workers and develop strategies to ensure we have productive and healthy environments for the older workforce, and is funded by the New Dynamics of Ageing Programme.  The research project is led by Professor Cheryl Haslam, Director of the Work and Health Research Centre.

Since the number of older workers above the age of 50 is more than double the number of younger workers under the age of 25, it’s clear that this research has come at an opportune time.

Aunty Doris attends “Back to Work Training”
Aunty Doris attends “Back to Work Training”

Working Late takes a pro-active view to establishing connections with workers and various other agencies including The Age and Employment Network. Working Late held a series of expert panels involving a range of experts from HR management, employment law, occupational health, transport and academia.  Glass Bead Consulting was invited to provide a perspective on the impact of demographic changes on the design of future HR organisations.

Working Late’s research ranges from influencing government policies to more practical solutions.  For example, one study highlighted that UK workers spend an average of five hours and 41 minutes at their desk in a work day. Dr Myanna Duncan, from Loughborough University, warned that office workers literally “forget to stand” spending nearly as long at their desks as they were sleeping in bed!  Given the musculo-skeletal problems in the workforce, this is a clear warning that we need to get out of our chairs more and talk face-to-face instead of using email.

The researchers from the Working Late Research Group looked into some of the challenges of later life working, and conducted 108 semi-structured interviews with employers, employees, job seekers and recently retired.  Here is a copy of the presentation which formed the basis of discussion at the expert panels, Working Late – Dynamics of Later-Life Working. The quotes from participants make for interesting reading:

“..It’s kind of awful to think that people are going to end their careers going down a capability route of disciplinary because they are no longer capable of doing the role that’s required of them because they are older. No one wants to performance manage out an older worker as they’re reaching the end of their career […] regardless of legislation everyone wants careers to end with dignity.
(Employer, 42)

“They [older workers] tend to stay with us for a longer period of time. So they’ve got to a stage often in their career where the content of their role is just as important as actually being promoted.”
(Employer, 48)

The themes emerging from the interviews included career development, homeostasis of career, new identities of ageing in relation to retirement, pensions, job-seeking and economic outlook.  All of which will eventually have a profound impact on us all.

What does this mean for HR?

For HR, the ageing workforce is a current issue with much on-going work on developing retirement policy in line with regulations, pay and pension reviews and recruitment policy.  In addition, many HR departments are dealing with complex age discrimination cases, see for example this article in Personnel Today, “Cases in point: guidance on retiring employees”.

Managing an ageing workforce is one factor of many influencing future HR Operating Models. It is important to understand your workforce profile now and against where it will be in 5 years’ time against your organisation needs, and also reviewing HR Strategy through the lens of each customer group; from Generation Y to older workers.

Also, read our follow-up article The Impact of an Ageing Workforce on HR.

What you can do

- Follow Working Late on Twitter @workhealth
- Visit www.workinglate.org for more detailed updates
- Get Aunty Doris to update her profile on LinkedIn…?
- Subscribe by email to the HR Transformer Blog
to ensure you read future articles which will look at the changing workforce on HR

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One Response to “Working Late – The Impact of an Ageing Workforce”

  1. Impact of an Ageing Workforce on HR - HR Transformer Blog - Member Blogs - HR Blogs - HR Space from Personnel Today and Xpert HR Says:

    [...] An article on the impact of the ageing workforce on HR Related posts:Working Late – The Impact of an Ageing Workforce An article about the impact of the Ageing Workforce on…How to Avoid HR Technology Bogeys An [...]

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