Business owners in the UK are experiencing the impact of an increasingly ageing population.
This shift has societal implications and significantly impacts the business landscape.
Read on for insights on managing your experienced and valuable ageing employees effectively.
What Do We Mean By An Ageing Workforce?
When we refer to an “ageing workforce”, we are addressing a demographic trend where the median age of workers is rising.
This trend is driven by a combination of factors, including the ageing of baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), increased life expectancy, and people working longer, often out of financial necessity or the desire to remain professionally active.
Whilst the exact age bracket that older workers may be defined as can vary across industries, one common thread is that they’re likely to bring a lot of experience and valuable knowledge to their role at your business.
Understanding the Aging Workforce
Your team’s older members can offer your business a wealth of insight, provided you are equipped to facilitate and leverage their contributions.
Understanding their needs in terms of communication, job design, and engagement is the first step in managing your older workers effectively.
Here are some strategies to improve communication with older members of your team:
Holding regular meetings with your older employees gives you a platform to express your expectations and receive feedback.
These can be one-on-one sessions or team meetings where everyone has a chance to communicate openly.
Clear and Concise Information
Ensure that you communicate all necessary information clearly and concisely.
Avoid using jargon or complicated language that may lead to misunderstandings.
Provide written documentation where necessary to reinforce verbal communication.
Listening and Empathy
Listening actively to your older employees and showing empathy towards their experiences fosters a culture of mutual respect.
It allows you to understand their perspective and adapt your management style to meet their needs.
Use of Technology
While some older employees may struggle with newer technology, many are capable and willing to learn.
Use a variety of communication tools, such as email, video conferencing, and instant messaging, but be ready to offer support and training to those who need it.
Offering regular feedback lets your employees know how they’re doing and where improvements are needed.
However, remember that feedback should be constructive and aim to foster growth, not to criticise or diminish.
An open-door policy encourages employees to communicate their concerns, ideas, or problems without fear of retaliation.
This approach can promote transparency and trust, making your older employees feel valued and heard.
Respect for Experience
Respecting and acknowledging the experience of older employees is crucial. Invite them to share their thoughts, ideas, and experiences in group discussions or meetings.
This can boost their confidence and make them feel valued, increasing their engagement.
By implementing these strategies, you can create an environment where your older workers feel comfortable expressing their views and needs, leading to a more inclusive and productive workspace.
Strategic HR Management: Addressing Cultural Bias and Updating Policies
Cultural bias against older workers can be an unfortunate reality in some workplaces.
These biases can stem from age-related stereotypes and can significantly undermine the unique value that these experienced workers bring to your team.
More critically, these biases can lead to an exclusive environment that negatively affects morale, productivity, and workplace culture.
For HR teams and business leaders, addressing and combating these biases is crucial for fostering respectful, inclusive, and engaging workspace and recruitment practices.
Here are some key points to consider:
- Promote a culture of inclusivity: Encourage a work environment that values the contributions of all employees, regardless of age. Foster understanding and collaboration among diverse age groups.
- Provide sensitivity training: Regular training sessions can help employees understand and overcome age-related bias, promoting mutual respect among all team members.
- Encourage intergenerational collaboration: Foster a culture where knowledge and skills are shared between older and younger employees, leading to mutual understanding and breaking down age-related stereotypes.
Regularly updating health, well-being, and care policies is another essential part of managing an ageing workforce.
Policies should be reviewed and updated to ensure they cater to the needs of all employees, including those who are older.
Further reading: What to consider in over 50 recruitment.
Consider the following:
- Workplace safety and ergonomics: Adjust workspaces to cater to the physical needs of older workers. This could mean ergonomic furniture, better lighting, or safety improvements.
- Health and wellbeing: Introduce or update programs that promote regular health check-ups, wellness activities, and stress management.
- Care responsibilities: Consider policies that take into account workers who may be caregivers for elderly parents or partners.
- Flexible working: Allow for flexible hours or remote work arrangements to accommodate various needs.
Proactive management of these areas can create a healthy, inclusive, and respectful environment for all your employees, while also adhering to legal requirements.
Navigating the legal aspects associated with managing an older workforce is a key focus to get right.
The Equality Act 2010 is the primary UK legislation protecting employees from age discrimination, which includes unfair treatment, harassment, or victimisation due to age.
Specifically, the Act prohibits age discrimination in various aspects of employment, such as recruitment, promotions, and dismissals.
For instance, employers must justify mandatory retirement ages, as determined by the Supreme Court in Seldon v. Clarkson Wright and Jakes (2012).
The Act also addresses indirect discrimination, where a seemingly neutral policy may disadvantage a certain age group.
This was exemplified in Homer v. Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police (2012), where a policy was found to disadvantage those nearing retirement.
Employers are also obliged to make reasonable adjustments to assist employees in overcoming certain disadvantages resulting from age, such as altering working patterns or making physical workplace adjustments.
Effectively managing an ageing workforce can bring numerous benefits to your business.
By understanding their needs, updating policies, investing in their career development, and making adjustments like offering flexible hours, you can create an inclusive and productive environment for all your employees.
Consulting with employment law specialists can be a great way to get guidance through the updates, ensuring your policies are compliant with relevant employment and HR law guidelines.
Contact us at 01244 893776 to ensure your workplace policies are compliant, free from discrimination, and meet all necessary laws and employment regulations.