Workers over 50 make up a third of the UK workforce. Despite the numbers, ageism is a challenge that is rife in organisations across Britain; the hurdles this demographic faces are significant.

Then came the Covid 19 pandemic.  Covid made waves throughout the employment market. Most demographics and sectors were heavily implicated in one way or another by this virus of mass destruction.

It has been well documented that it affected young workers; those aged between 18-24 most heavily. However, as is usual, the older generation of workers has been somewhat forgotten and left out of the discussion.

In fact, older workers were the group most likely to have been furloughed or facing redundancy.  Between May and July 2021, 31,000 over-50s were made redundant and as of just last month, there were still over 360,000 people aged 55 + on furlough.

The close of the furlough scheme at the end of September means that many older workers may find themselves suddenly looking for new roles, perhaps after years of enjoying stable and familiar employment.

It is likely that older workers will be forced to leave the workplace altogether. Evidence from previous recession periods suggests that these professionals will find it hard to find a new job, even when the economy picks up.

This would be a huge loss to the labour market. The over 50 demographic offers a mass wealth of experience that is invaluable both to businesses and the younger workers within them.

Are you looking to grow your tech team?

Here’s why you shouldn’t dis-count hiring a tech professional over 50.

Reliability and retention.

Older workers are usually honest and highly reliable. As a rule, workers over 50 aren’t late and only take genuine periods of sick leave.  Their reliability also extends into the work they do.  With a desire, and possibly a need to work, older workers are driven by completing work efficiently, and with a ‘right-first-time’ mentality.

A survey conducted by Nationwide reveals that once in work, workers over 50 were less likely to “job jump” than their younger counterparts.  If they are in a role that aligns with their experience and skill set, they have very little motivation to move jobs unlike those who may be at a more ambitious stage in their careers.  This loyalty is invaluable to an organisation.  Retention of knowledge and information supports business continuity and ensures that there will always be someone more experienced to help integrate and support new joiners.

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Knowledge and expertise.

The wealth of experience and industry knowledge older workers acquire throughout their careers is invaluable.  Experience brings with it wisdom and knowledge. An older worker is more likely to have worked across departments, on many different projects, and in many sectors.

A study by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), reveals that more than three-quarters of businesses said the experience of workers aged 50 or older was the main benefit of employing them in their organisation. This was followed by the reliability of workers in this age group and their mentoring potential for younger workers.

Often though, it is this depth of “old” knowledge that goes against older tech workers. Coming through are a new generation of digital-native grads who are tech-savvy and up to date with all the on-trend industry developments. However, new trends evolve from more traditional models. It is likely that new processes have their roots in more established ones. Older workers have a solid base from which to understand and learn the new.

Tech employers should try to balance their workforce to enjoy the best of both demographics. With carefully worded language in job adverts, businesses can appeal to both cohorts, ensuring that they secure a diverse workforce with a melting pot of experience and knowledge.

Leadership and mentorship.

Workers over 50 can serve as critical support for younger workers. Their leadership potential is huge. Perhaps this group do not rely as heavily upon digital communication as younger staff; their methods of communication are more traditional facilitating a more thorough and comprehensive understanding of tasks and processes.

This is also true of non-technical issues. Perhaps an older worker’s experience lends itself better to conversation and spoken communication. Their years in the workplace mean they are likely to be seasoned in navigating professional relationships. The advice they can impart on conflict resolution or professional disagreements could prove to be an invaluable resource for someone younger and less adept at this.

Decision-making skills.

Knowledge and experience are often the basis of making considered decisions. Experience brings with it a more collected approach to business. By hiring a worker over 50, an employer can introduce someone into the organisation with the experience to be effective and make an impact immediately.  Of course, older workers still need effective on-boarding and induction, but they do have an ingrained critical thinking ability to problem solve. As a rule, older workers can work on their own sooner, without the need for middle management to OK their every decision.

Quality networks.

Longevity of time in the workplace means that older workers will have built and maintained relationships with a wide variety of professionals across departments and industries. Years of work and this established professional network mean that companies have the potential to access this source of opportunity and professional resources.

With all these benefits, hiring over 50s seems to be a no-brainer. So what can businesses do to attract older workers into their businesses?

Advertising best practice.

Hiring starts with advertising the role.  Recruiters and hiring managers must be careful not to ostracise or implicitly discriminate against ANY age group in the wording or the communication of their job adverts.

To make sure your advert is seen by job seekers from all demographics, there needs to be an omnichannel approach. By advertising the role on social media sites as well as traditional marketing channels, you can ensure that the role has a wider reach. You will achieve a more diverse talent pool to select from.

Refine and define what the business needs.

Perhaps businesses need to look at “what” it needs, rather than “who” it needs.

Instead of having an idea about the sorts of individuals that may fit the company brand, hiring managers or recruitment teams need to focus on a skills-based approach that would get the job done.  To do this,

1. Specify the skills required.

This is an objective way to define what person the company needs as skills are not age-dependent.  Think about soft skills as well as the technical skills here, and it is critical that these are listed in the early processes.

2. Experience.

The required experience should focus on the type of experience required rather than the longevity of experience.  The length of service will become apparent when you start to shortlist CVs and conduct interviews.

3. Qualifications.

Skills-based hiring is outdating the antiquated practice of hiring for qualifications alone.  IN order to hire a more diverse age range of candidates, companies need to look at qualifications using a wider lens.  Some older workers may not have some technical qualifications that younger more digitally present younger candidates have.  Despite this, the maturity and professional experience may instead bring transferable skill sets and capabilities that hold meaningful benefits for organisations.

We would love to hear from you if you are a tech, digital, or data professional looking for your next role. Our clients are inclusive organisations that hold diversity at their hearts. We and they welcome applications that reflect our wider society and lived experiences. Get in touch today.

About the author: I work hard to find the best opportunities for my candidates and the best talent for my clients. My honest and pragmatic approach helps me to build lasting relationships and deliver real value.  I have extensive experience helping organisations overcome their critical challenges in the digital environment, and have worked with everything from start-ups to major global brands.

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