Creating an Age Inclusive Workplace


22nd November 2023

Read Time

5 mins

Yesterday we attended the “Creating an Age Inclusive Workplace” webinar organised by Working People and hosted by the amazing Gillian Nissim. There’s a demographic shift happening in the UK workforce and 50% of workforce will be 50+ in 2 years’ time.  

Here are some shocking stats from their survey:  

  • 76% of all older workers desire a great work / life balance  
  • 40% said they were less focused on career progression  
  • 88% said they are open to learning new skills. 63% would like to change careers mainly for a new challenge 
  • 49% feel their life experience isn’t valued by their employer 
  • 41% have felt excluded at work due to age 
  • 55% felt their CV / application was sidelined due to age 
  • 35% felt they encountered ageism in the interview process 
  • 24% said the way the job was worded / presented was age-biased 
  • 55% felt AI (Artificial Intelligence) would make it harder for older workers to find a job  
  • 57% have encountered ageism in the recruitment process 
  • 46% have altered the CV as a result  
  • 17% took over 7 months to find a new role 
  • 58% felt age played a part in them not securing a role 

Attracting, recruiting and retaining older workers is an absolute must and although we’re super focused this week as it’s National Older Workers Week, it must be integral to our thinking always. Some amazing speakers shared their experience and thoughts. 

Lisa Edgar from Saga talked about 3 key points:

  1. We change as we age 
  2. We change in so many ways and our decision-making abilities get even better with age. Fluid intelligence does lessen, but crystalised wisdom grows and grows which means we have a huge bank of knowledge which we can bring to employers.  In your 20s, 30s and 40s extrinsic motivators really matter and as you get older intrinsic motivators are more important such as purpose. As we age, we become less dependent on peers and group think reduces too. So decision making is better, 9 out of 10 workers are open to learning new skills and there’s also a strong relationship between tenure and productivity (the longer you’ve worked, the higher your productivity)  
  3. But we can only maximise the value older workers bring if we recognise the changes as positive. Positive ageing has always been at the heart of Saga and how they want colleagues and customers to think. So attracting and retaining older workers is entwined in the recruitment process and benefits package. There is a clear menopause policy, purpose and pleasure are combined and colleagues can volunteer. Intergenerational working is an important too.  

So to conclude, we change, change adds value and we need to recognise the positive.  

Michaela Gibson, Head of DEI Transformation & Programme Management at Phoenix Financial Services, talked about the pioneering steps that Phoenix are making in the older workers space.  

Here are some of the policies they have which are crucial to creating age inclusivity. Phoenix makes it clear that they want older workers, valuing their experience and the magic of intergenerational teams. Younger workers can learn so much from more experienced individuals and that works both ways.  

The Phoenix Flex programme is at the core and it’s about all aspects of flexibility. In conjunction with your team and business unit you can see how work works best for you. We can implement some things for age inclusivity, and other diversity issues, including neurodiversity to manage energy levels.  

If you want connection and support, we can find a colleague who knows what it’s like. We’ve got some great employee resource groups, an award-winning caring group, an age inclusion group called Infinity and we have a young person’s network too.  

There is a 10 day fully paid carers leave, or our employees can take a non-paid career break from 1 to 12 months. There are Midlife MOTs and colleagues are asked what they want to do as they get older. How do you want to manage your retirement? Phasing down to 3 days / week or if you’re an accountant just working December, January and February? The Phoenix Group have a fully funded caring concierge service called Care Heroes and they can negotiate rates for care homes and provide other types of support.   

Michaela also talked about the fact that the online application process excludes the over 50s, particularly from a lower socio-economic background. Michaela talked about the Your New Future programme run in conjunction with Connectr and the DWP. 5 people from the programme have started with Phoenix. The process will be repeated next year.  

David Whitson-Black was next up from @Azets. David talked about learning and development increasing satisfaction in roles and reducing attrition. More than 20% of the Azets employees are over 50 and it’s important to ensure the practice is inclusive and colleagues can talk about what they want. So they have check-ins and career conversations a couple of times a year, it’s not about looking backwards, it’s about looking forwards. The biggest engagement comes from the over 50s and its risen from 60% to 86%. The conversations get better and people stay longer.  

Nicky Elford talked about the Your Future Your Way programme run by Lloyds Bank. Lloyds have 30m customers and over 1/3 are over 50, so it’s important colleagues reflect this demographic and have a lived experience of complaints or family bereavement for example. Some of our older workers are saying “we love working for Lloyds but we’re not getting the same opportunities as our younger colleagues”. So flexible working is at the top of the agenda. There’s a great story of a risk manager who has reskilled to be a data scientist, he’ll be there until he’s 70 and has had 2 completely different careers.  

Your Future Your Way is focussed on life stages, parents, carers thinking about retirement, it has coaching support, lifestyle planning, wellbeing, menopause and cancer support too.  

There are dedicated apprenticeships for tech and data for older workers and emerging leaders and Lloyds are thinking more consciously about phased retirement. There’s flexibility phasing down responsibilities or hours and all roles are available to job sharers, that’s genius! So if you’re upsizing or downsizing your career, why not find a job share partner?  

Steve Butler from Punter Southall Aspire told a great story about a colleague who wanted to leave / retire, he was jaded and tired and Steve advised a 3 month sabbatical and he came back a different employee, redefined his role and he has energy and is happy once more. Flexible working is the cornerstone to so many things and it’s all about personal conversations. Listening to people’s ambitions, where do they want to go, 2 way conversations and a listening culture, creating an environment where people feel comfortable. Unconscious bias training is a big part of what we do and hiring managers training is refreshed constantly. 

Sue Wisbey at Allen & Overy sponsors Older National Workers week and applications for their fabulous ReStart Programme opened last week. ReStart is aimed at individuals over 50 and is an employability upskilling initiative designed and delivered by experts. The programme targets those who have been out of employment for between 6 months and a year and are looking to re-enter work or kickstart a new career direction and they’re now in their 8th year and real trailblazers in this space.