How to avoid missing out on older talent

20 August 2012 -


Think the recession means a bottomless well of labour? Think again. Demographic shifts mean older workers are more valuable than ever, says CIPD public policy adviser Dianah Worman

The current economic downturn may fool you that there is plenty of talent in the labour market to draw on. But there are underlying implications related to the ageing of the population and the labour market itself that you need to be aware of to avoid problems.

It is predicted that UK employers will need to fill an estimated 13.5 million job vacancies in the next ten years. Over this period only seven million young people will leave school and college and at the same time the Government plans further restrictions on migrant labour. Against these background predictions employers will increasingly have to rely on an older talent pool to deliver their business objectives.

Based on a year-long research programme driven by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in collaboration with the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives and the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), we have launched practical guidance designed to help employers respond successfully to the talent management challenges and opportunities they will face over the early decades of the 21st century.

Employer attitudes about the value of older workers are positive and at the same time older workers are increasingly looking to extend their working lives. In view of this, The CIPD guidance, Managing a Healthy Ageing Workforce: a national business imperative, outlines three key steps to managing an ageing workforce, summarised below:

Step 1 – Build the business case

CIPD survey evidence and focus group testimonies make it clear that the boards of organisations are often unfamiliar with the significant workforce changes predicted and have no strategy to respond to the implications they carry. To get their buy-in for strategic action, the need a well-argued business case with estimated costs and savings related to relevant responses, including the risks of failing to act.

Step 2 – Address the myths

Stereotypical thinking – both conscious and unconscious – about age and what people can or can’t do influences the way people at work are managed and the way people themselves behave. It is essential to make sure that stereotypical age-based assumptions do not stop the good management of people and their full participation at work. 

Step 3 – Talent management

Organisations that ignore the ageing of the workforce do so at their peril. They risk failing to attract, retain and engage the people they need to survive. Businesses need to be thinking positively and creatively about workforce ageing to keep up with competitors. 

While you won’t be able to make all the relevant changes in your organisation yourself, you will be playing a very important role in drawing attention to the issues and stressing their importance. You can help to trigger change by talking to other people to raise awareness about the need for action. All of us are ageing, and we all have an interest in helping organisations improve how they manage an age diverse workforce.

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