10 reasons why employing the over 50s makes business sense

Posted in: Finance Last updated: 18 Sep 2014

With people in their 50s projected to overtake those in their 40s in UK workplaces by 2020 [1], more and more employers are waking up to the benefits more mature employees bring. Those of us in our 50s and beyond already know we have a lot to offer, so let’s take time to spread the word and spell out exactly why employing older people makes good business sense.

With more and more of us working longer, and the growth in job vacancies set to outstrip the numbers of young people available to fill them, it’s time to recognise the positive contribution the over 50s make in the workplace.

Here are 10 positives that older workers bring to an organisation.

1 Skills, knowledge and experience

With age, they say, comes wisdom. Older members of staff might not all claim to be wise, but they undoubtedly bring with them the skills, knowledge and experience they have gained from their years in employment.

2 Loyalty and reliability

According to 50+Work, a good practice guide to employers, one of the key strengths of 50-plus employees is their high level of reliability, loyalty and motivation.

3 High organisational and communication skills

Communication, both within a team and with customers, and good organisational skills are vital for any business, and these are two key skills that those of us in the 50-plus age group have in spades. Don’t just take our word for it, employers with good track records in employing older people say the same [2]. And don’t forget, with an ageing population, older workers will have more empathy with an increasingly ageing customer base.

4 Less absenteeism

We know that people are living longer and healthier lives. So just because we are over 50 doesn’t mean we are going to be calling in sick. Most people (62 per cent) feel they are as strong physically and mentally at work as when they were in their 20s and 30s, according to a study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission [3]. Older workers generally have fewer short-term absences than their younger colleagues. B&Q, for example, says absenteeism is 39 per cent lower among its older staff members.

5 Reduced staff turnover

Research shows employers of older workers keep their staff longer. Nationwide, for example, says its annual turnover rate for older staff is just four per cent, compared to 10 per cent for younger employees, with recruits in their 50s and 60s staying for 13 years on average.

6 Enthusiasm for learning

Age is no barrier to learning. Research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission [4] shows 44 per cent of 56-59 year-olds and a third of 60-64 year-olds have been involved in training in the past three years, and 21 per cent of over 50s have trained to improve their job prospects.

7 Happier in work

Working into later life is often a matter of personal choice, not a burden borne purely out of necessity, and people who choose to work longer tend to be happy and enjoy what they do.

8 Ability to mentor and pass on knowledge

With a wealth of knowledge and experience under their belts older workers are well-placed to pass on their skills to the next generation through mentoring programmes.

9 Lower recruitment and training costs

Employing staff in their 50s and beyond can actually save companies money. A survey of 70 UK businesses conducted by the Centre for Research into the Older Workforce and the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education showed employing older staff resulted in significant savings in recruitment and training costs.

10 Employers need older people

Last but not least, the fact is that Britain is simply running out of workers. Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development [5] says there will be 13.5 million job vacancies that need filling by 2022, but only 7 million young people will leave school or college by then – meaning older people are needed to fill the gap.

So there we have it, ten compelling reasons why employers should take on more over 50s and 10 plus points for those of us in that age group to shout about.

Older workers don’t just benefit the economy, they bring great benefits to themselves and their families, keeping body and brain active and making financial provision for their futures.

If you’re over 50 and are thinking about a career change take a look here at some famous faces who have proved it’s never too late to make the change.

What employers say

David Fairhurst, McDonald’s UK & Northern Europe, says: “Changing demographics in the workplace mean that later life workers are now the fastest growing age group in the labour market. Yet despite the growing numbers of mature workers, their contribution to business and the wider economy often goes unsung. It might surprise people to learn that at McDonald’s we employ over 1,000 people aged 60 and above. These employees play an important role in our business and, as the research shows, they make a huge impact on customer satisfaction.”

Mandy Ferries, head of personnel and training, JD Wetherspoon says: “Some people’s perception of our industry is that it’s a youth-oriented one, so while we were very good at employing students, we’d always struggled to attract applications from the older age bracket. Although we had a retirement age, in practice we never used it, so early in 2006 we made the decision to scrap it and have never looked back. We now receive… job applications each month, from people of all different ages and often recruit trainee managers in their 50s or 60s.”

1 – 50+Works – Employing the 50+:business benefits
2 – 50+Works
3 – Working Better, The over 50s, the new work generation, Equality and Human Rights Commission.
4 – Equality and Human Rights Commission
5 – Employing older workers – Department for Work and Pensions

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