Our Thoughts

Posted on 3rd March 2015 by Mo Salter in Our Thoughts, Employee engagement

Retain, retrain…and rock & roll

Mo Salter

Around 20 million Brits will be 65 or over in the next 30 years. And it's a trend that’s happening in Europe too. What will they all be doing? Playing golf? Crocheting? Long holidays?  Not all of them – they’ll be using their experience, expertise and maturity to help companies prosper.


It’s sometimes framed as a crisis – the fact that, in the next 10 years, there’ll be 700,000 fewer people aged 16 to 49 in the UK labour market, but 3.7m more people aged between 50 and state pension age. What tends to get forgotten is that, generally, people are fitter and healthier these days. Chronological age means very little when we have rock stars performing in their 70s and body-builders in their 80s and 90s.


As a default retirement age starts to disappear, we’re seeing more older people choosing to stay at work, starting their own businesses or getting involved in volunteer work – around 5.2m volunteering at the last count.

Why do people choose to carry on working? Well, in many cases, they simply enjoy the job and want to continue with new challenges or financially they are not in a position to give up, or a mixture of both. There are enormous benefits for companies investing in retaining their most skilled, knowledgeable, experienced, and possibly most engaged people but also for the economy and society as a whole by limiting pressures on social care, health and pension systems. 

It could be argued that these older folk cause a block for the younger workforce but still many companies find it difficult to replace skill lost through retirement. And despite the current economic climate there are still reports of skills shortages in the UK market.  

Dr Ros Altmann, the UK’s government’s Business Champion for Older Workers, said in an interview last year that many businesses recognised the value of older workers. 

“They have explained to me how having older people in the workforce benefits their bottom line, have higher profitability and customer satisfaction.” Many customers prefer to be served by older people, and younger workers learn from their experienced colleagues – not just about the specific job, but about reliability and the work ethic too.


“AT Brown Coaches told me that their older staff are ‘like gold-dust’. They know how hard it would be to replace their experience, their loyalty and their flexibility. And National Express say that taking on and retaining older staff isn’t about compromise or bowing to political pressure, it simply makes sense because the teams in which younger and older colleagues work together produce the best performance.”


Barclays bank has also recently announced, it is to launch an apprenticeship scheme for the over 50s. These schemes are based on hard commercial logic rather than part of a corporate responsibility programme. Mike Thompson, head of apprenticeships at Barclays, says “older people have more life experience, and can show more empathy. They will have had a mortgage, they will know how to budget and how to support customers.”


Taking on the challenges of managing multi – generation teams means managers will need to develop skills to mentor, communicate and performance manage workers of all ages. (See Our Thoughts article on Communication – what’s the big deal) But the benefits far outweigh the challenges. Let’s hear it for our wise and wonderful older workers!

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