It’s no surprise that skills shortages is second on the list of concerns for IoD members, with 42 percent of those recently questioned saying it was causing them a major headache. The downside to good job figures is that it makes it harder for organisations to find the talent they need. But are we looking in the right places and is ageism in recruitment, conscious or not, still a factor?
Currently only 64% of people aged 55-64 in the UK are in employment. If we were to increase this by just 20% – matching Sweden’s record on employing older people – it would add about £80bn to the GDP.
Through 20 years’ experience of filling job vacancies, I have found there are many reasons why you overlook this demographic to your disadvantage. Interestingly, small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are taking advantage of this workforce faster than other larger businesses and organisations; they probably recognise the need to be more flexible in both their thinking and the way they operate the business to get the absolute most out of it.
I employ two people over the age of 60; they are never late, never call in sick, always willing to go the extra mile. Older people tend to have better work ethic; they are used to routine and structure, which is something many younger people struggle with. Emotional intelligence is another factor: older people by and large deal well with constructive feedback on their performance and realise it helps with development. Many younger employees have yet to develop that maturity and can often take feedback as criticism. From a practical point of view, older employees are more settled and less likely to be looking for a ‘career move’ – so you get great work and life experience combined with stability. And that’s good for the younger workforce too – they can learn so much from those who have already had their career and are willing to pass on some of their life lessons. Many are happy fulfilling a role less demanding than their actual ability because they don’t want too much stress or pressure – so as an employer you may be able to get great experience for a very competitive salary compared to someone trying to climb the career ladder.
Older people are also in a good place to apply all the skills and knowledge they have acquired over the years to new ventures – we are seeing a definite rise in the end of the older entrepreneur with some embarking on not just their second but their third or fourth career. In fact, the IoD has made proposals to the Government to introduce tax incentives to encourage people in later life to pursue their business ideas and invest in training. This may not be everyone’s first choice but keeping older people connected to the business world through consulting, mentoring, part time employment or even full time employment retains their skills for longer – and that’s a win-win for all of us.