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In autumn 2022, the Centre for Aging Better launched its challenge to sign up employers to the Age-Friendly Employer pledge. It is fascinating to see what that pledge consists of. The Centre for Ageing Better believe that as well as being a good thing and the right thing, there is a compelling business case for employers. The job market is changing. There are skills and labour shortages. Vacancy rates at record highs. Workers in their fifties and sixties are key to filling those gaps. The Centre recognizes that more people are working later in life but older workers often face prejudice or are overlooked. In fact, employment rates drop off rapidly from the age of 55 and over half of people have stopped working before the state pension age. The most recent government statistics (November 2022) identified that 20% of the working-age population were economically inactive.
What are you pledging?
An Age-Friendly Employer will identify a Senior Sponsor for Age Inclusion in the Workforce, and publicly state their commitment to the pledge.
They will ensure that age is specifically named within the Equality Diversion Inclusion Policies.
They will take action to improve the recruitment, retention and development of workers over 50 in at least one of the following areas: creating an age-friendly culture, hiring age positively, being flexible about flexible working, encouraging career development at all ages, and ensuring everyone has the health support they need.
They will report on activities and achievements annually.
Age-Friendly Employer Framework
Alongside, the pledge there is a framework to support the overall process of implementation.
They encourage you to analyse your workforce data by age, to look at your job advertising, to welcome flexible working hours for any reason, to provide a holistic MOT to staff in midlife and beyond, and have open conversations about menopause at work.
A great case study is Saga, who already have a commitment to supporting people in the second half of their lives, through their products and services which target the over 50s.
Jane Storm, the Chief People Officer of Saga Group, has some top tips about how you could go about things. They take care with the wording they use in recruitment and advertising, avoiding language such as ‘energetic’ or ‘graduate’.
Saga offer flexibility to workers both in hours and location. Saga’s age inclusion forums provide listening sessions on age with members of the Executive Leadership team to better understand what’s working and what could work better.
Data underpins the impact they’re trying to make on recruitment and onboarding. They are actively reviewing how they can provide inter-generational representation and translate this into hiring practices.
When they select media to announce vacancies, they deliberately include websites that specialise in jobs for older people.
In terms of flexible working, they are not just offering leave for young parents, they offer grandparents leave so that anyone who becomes a grandparent receives one week of paid leave irrespective of length of service.
They offer extended nursery provision to grandchildren. They have a menopause policy and are accredited as a menopause friendly employer, by the Menopause Friendly Accreditation programme.
They continue to provide training development for older workers with both internal and external mentoring partnerships for all their workers. They ensure there are good representation opportunities for older colleagues.
The positive feedback they have received from their age inclusion forums include the benefits that older colleagues feel from intergenerational teams. There they feel valued for their experience and they recognize Saga’s positive view on age. For example, there’s no expectation about when they will retire. They report a huge contrast with the supportive environment at Saga compared to the ageism they’ve experienced elsewhere.
One of the things they are doing is actively engaging in a programme of age upskilling throughout 22/23. That means that colleagues understand ageing, what it is like to age and actively challenge negative perceptions around ageing. As a result they use more positive language which has a huge impact on their ability to engage with their customer demographic.
They rotate, their Head of Experience role, which was originally taken by Danny Clark, who at 53, became BBC’s Instant Gardener and bringing other people in as well.
I would strongly encourage you, whatever your role or seniority to raise the age-friendly employer challenge with your managers, and leaders. Point them to the pledge that is being promoted by the Centre for Ageing Better. Question why they’re not adopting some of the opportunities for benefit that the pledge will provide. In particular, enabling access to parts of the job market they’re not currently reaching and increased capacity to retain, and build on, the skills and experience of your older colleagues. After all getting older is not just for a minority – everybody gets older unless they are dead!
Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.