Why supporting older workers is a win-win for employees and employers

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Gail Izat

November 20, 2023

3 mins read

Since last year, the number of retirees returning to work has increased. This National Older Workers Week, it’s time to look at ways to support and retain this highly skilled segment of your workforce – and tap into the talents they bring to your business.

Most people probably see retirement as a one-way street. Once you’ve left the workforce, that’s it, right? Our latest Retirement Voice report – which looks at how the nation is feeling about their savings and retirement – would suggest otherwise.

Our research reveals that the number of 55-64-year-olds unretiring and going back to work has almost doubled since last year (jumping from 6% in 2022 to 11% this year).

So why are more people making a retirement U-turn? 

Our insights show that, for many, the reason is financial. Of those who returned to work, 32% did so because their living costs increased more than expected, while 24% said their pension wasn’t enough for them to live off. 

Social factors also play a big part in people’s decision to return to the workplace. Those who unretired say boredom (39%), feeling socially isolated (19%), or feeling unhappy when not working (15%) drove them back to work.

As for where people go next, almost half (48%) of those who unretired went back into the same industry they left, while 4 in 10 (41%) say they’re trying something new.

So what does this shift in retirement plans mean for employers? And what can they do to support older workers who may be on the way out – or way back in – of employment? 

Why harnessing the talents of older workers is essential for employers

Over 50s are fast becoming the dominant demographic in the workplace. In fact, according to Working Wise, 1 in 3 workers will be 50 or over by 2025. 

We also know from our research that more people are reversing their retirement plans and choosing to step back into work. And for some, there’s an appetite to take on new career challenges.

Crucially, older workers hold a wealth of valuable skills, knowledge, and experience that employers could tap into. Indeed, this year’s National Older Workers Week campaign highlights that having multigenerational teams is good for business, because each brings different insights and viewpoints into the workplace.

Unfortunately, ageism continues to create barriers. Research by our in-house think tank, Phoenix Insights, reveals that many over 50s feel left behind or undervalued in the workplace. Many also felt there were limited options for them in terms of career development or career changes.

The UK workforce is changing and the population is ageing. Many of us are or will be working for longer. In fact, our research shows that more than half the country (54%) think they’ll need to keep working beyond State Pension age. 

If employers are to harness the talents of an older workforce, it’s vital that they adjust their thinking. The need for employers to understand the challenges that older workers face – and embrace the value they can bring – is fast becoming essential. 

3 tips for employers to support older workers

This National Older Workers Week, it’s time to put the spotlight on supporting and celebrating your older employees. Here are some tips to help you get started. 

Understand your employees

Do you know how many of your employees are over 50, and how they’re feeling about work? If not, it’s a good idea to find out, because it can help you shape a dedicated support package that reflects employees’ needs.

Sending out an anonymous survey can help you capture this information, and spot any trends that might correlate with age. It can also help employees feel that their concerns or feedback are being listened to and taken seriously. 

If you’re with Standard Life for your workplace pension scheme, our Client Analytics tool allows you to cut through vast amounts of information and segment your member data by age. This can help you zone into specific areas, such as engagement levels, giving you an insight into member behaviour.

Share money management tools

We know from our research that some retirees are returning to work for financial reasons. 

Helping older workers understand their current and future financial situation could help them make more informed decisions about going back into the workplace.

Standard Life workplace pension scheme members can get access to our digital platform, Money Mindset, to help them make more sense of the money they have today. It allows them to see all their financial accounts in one place, helping them spot opportunities for optimising their spending. 

Members can also use our Retirement Income Tool to see how much money they might have in future, and what kind of retirement lifestyle they’re on track for.

Offer flexible working

Flexibility is a priority for those aged 50+. So to keep hold of the valuable talents of your older workers – and attract them back into the workforce – it’s critical that you adapt and design flexible roles.

If you’re hiring, make it clear in your job ads that the role is flexible and explain what type of flexibility you offer. Leaving out this important information might unintentionally put off older workers from applying. 

Remember to promote your flexible working options to your existing workers too. You could create a targeted communications campaign to raise awareness of what’s on offer.

For more information on financial wellbeing, including resources on how you can help support your employees, take a look at our Financial Wellbeing hub and read our articles.

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