Sick of hearing about millennials? It’s the over fifties keeping HR awake at night

Published on: Fri 17 August 2018 by Admin

We know that people are living and working for longer so are employers considering how they can effectively support and retain older workers?

Nowadays, we hear a lot about the “grey ceiling”; a term used to describe the age discrimination that many older job seekers and workers face whilst they’re searching for jobs or seeking promotions.

Even though employers aren’t allowed to discriminate based upon age, getting hired can be a challenge when you’re viewed as an “older” worker. Several research studies have shown that older people face discrimination when seeking jobs. Indeed, a survey of businesses by Capita Resourcing found that three-quarters of HR leaders agree that they still need to address their managers’ unconscious age bias during recruitment processes.

Wealth of experience in age


Over 50’s have a wealth of skills and experience that organisations can take advantage of to be at the top of their game. We need to be thinking about capability and skills not age – there is still a range of negative stereotypes about over 50 year olds. Consequently, many employers are missing a trick when they are dismissing or excluding the skills of older people in the workplace.

The business case for diversity

Hands all in

New evidence from McKinsey and Co., in their report Delivering through Diversity,  shows that the more diverse a workforce, the more productive and more successful the company will be – this includes peoples age! Therefore, retaining older workers also makes good business sense!

Herein, there are many benefits for recruiting and retaining workers over 50… including dedication, punctuality, reliability, maturity, setting a good example and being a role model to younger workers to name a few.

With this in mind, we have put together our top ten tips for those working in HR who are looking to support and enhance the work of older employees in the workplace:

Flexible and agile working

meeting room

Implementing flexible and agile working processes can support older workers (as well as other employees). Agile working can create a more responsive, efficient and effective organisation, which improves business performance and increases customer satisfaction. It also enhances cost savings and the ability to retain skilled talent. Many employees do not want to work full time and this could support the retention of an older workforce. This also furthers work/life balance, increased job satisfaction and personal productivity.

Effective reasonable adjustment processes 

People can become disabled as they get older therefore organisations should ensure that they have robust and clear processes in place for implementing adjustments. Adjustments are not necessarily costly or difficult to implement therefore having good adjustment policies and support in place supports retention, productivity, absence management and employee satisfaction.

Capability is the key

E-learning - Learn online

Sometimes employers and managers think that age predicates incapability and that older workers are unable to carry out their role effectively. Therefore, employers should ensure they have strong review, appraisal and development processes in place so that skilled workers are recognised in addition to providing development opportunities where appropriate.

Reduce bias of teams

Age bias is prevalent in the workplace and employers need to ensure that employees are clear that age discrimination and bias will not be tolerated. Any bias training delivered should be inclusive of the issues regarding age bias.

Promote the benefits of an age diverse workforce

Diversity - Pawns

Spreading positive messages regarding how age diversity can benefit the workplace.

Use older workers skills appropriately

Use the wealth of skills and experience of older workers as well as transferable skills. Don’t be put off if you feel someone is ‘too experienced’ – there may be a reason that they are applying for a perceived lower level job than they have previously carried out. This may be due to them wanting less responsibility but still wanting to use their skills in the workplace.

Ensure maintaining an older workforce is included in inclusion strategy and action planning

plan woman writing

When reviewing and developing workplace/inclusion strategies ensure the issue of retaining older workers is included in the planning and final targets/deliverables.

Don’t make assumptions

Do not make assumptions about older workers e.g. they do not have the tech knowledge to be able to compete or work with younger employees. Many older people are tech savvy!! Or, at least are willing to learn and enhance their IT skills.

Intergenerational working


How can you create positive intergenerational working? Older and younger workers can learn so much from each other so provide opportunities for working together. How about implementing intergenerational mentoring programmes?


We know that measuring and monitoring can support organisational development. Are you monitoring the recruitment process? Are older workers being discriminated within the process? Are you reviewing and monitoring exit interviews to see if there are any issues with older workers leaving? Are staff engagement surveys highlighting any concerns from older workers? There is a wealth of monitoring data that can support you to enhance practices – so use them to keep your skilled older employees in the workplace!