Four steps to keeping older employees happy and motivated – both now and in the future

With an ageing population in the workplace, promoting policies and behaviours that support health and engagement can lead to a happier, more productive workforce.

Back in 2015, futurologist Rohit Talwar predicted that people born in the early 2000s would live to be 120, and likely work until they were 100.

Whether or not Mr Talwar’s prediction proves correct, it’s no secret that Britain’s workforce is getting older. According to the Office for National Statistics, UK population growth will be weighted towards the older population. By 2030, the number of people in England above the age of 65 will increase by 50% compared to 2014. And, according to the Department for Work and Pensions, in 2014, more people aged over 50 were in work than ever before. The gradually rising pension age over the next decade will also play a part.

So what can be done to ensure older workers remain motivated and content in their roles?

Flexible working

The myth that millennials and young parents are the only demographics who want to work flexibly was debunked long ago. People aged 50 and over are fast becoming one of the biggest groups in need of a flexible approach to work. And, as the forced retirement age no longer exists, many people are choosing to continue working, though possibly more flexibly.

Why? The first answer is probably the most obvious. As people get older, they’ll likely need to reduce the number of hours they work. While this is especially true of manual workers, their office-based counterparts will benefit from being able to work from home more.

Meanwhile, something a lot of people fail to consider is that older people provide a great deal of care for relatives. Carers UK estimates that, by 2037, there will be 9 million people providing unpaid care in England and Wales, and that this is “likely to be more common among older workers”.

A study by the Trades Unions Council shows that women over 50 have extensive caring responsibilities, with more than 50% caring for at least one of their parents, 39% for their children, 21% for their grandchildren, 13% for other elderly relatives and 9% for a disabled relative. Taking this into consideration, offering employees help when navigating the care system will pay huge dividends, not only for your employee and your company, but in a wider social sense, too.

Financial education

In our experience administering employee benefits packages, we’ve found that older employees are more interested in financial education than any other group.

The process of providing guidance on pensions and savings feeds through to other aspects of financial education, which most employers don't have the resources and skills to provide. But research shows individuals want to use a third party, such as the government's Money Advice Service which offers free and impartial money advice, tools and calculators, online and over the phone.

While pension planning should be done carefully, and throughout an employee’s working life, as they approach the point when they draw their pension, it’s important that employees are given as much guidance, education and support as possible around their options.

Ageing workforce strategy

It’s also important to remember not to overlook older employees when recruiting. Whether internal or external, there are a lot of highly skilled and well experienced employees out there. Remember, if you lose older employees, they take a wealth of experience with them, which can have a negative impact on your business.

For these reasons, it may be wise to devise an Ageing Workforce Strategy. Just be sure to think of older people when you have a recruitment drive, offer your older employees retraining opportunities and train your managers to avoid bias towards younger older employees. Of course, if you’d like to do more to help your older employees to thrive, so much the better!

Wellness initiatives

A comprehensive set of health and wellbeing initiatives is the cornerstone of any good employee benefits package. Much like pension planning, health programs are important to your employees for the duration of their working lives, whether they know it or not.

As well as offering things like subsidised gym memberships, bike schemes, and a good work life balance, it may be worth targeting certain initiatives specifically for the benefit of your older employees. Health assessments and screenings, health cash plans, gym classes specifically for the older generation, and on-site education about ailments typically suffered by older people will help keep your workforce happy and healthy. This will also reduce absenteeism and presenteeism, which is no bad thing.

If you use the Salary Extras platform, or you’re interested in employee benefits, get in touch today to see how we can help you.