An ageing workforce is one of the biggest challenges faced by employers over the coming years.
It is the inevitable outcome of an ageing population but a number of other factors have combined to accelerate the trend, from an increase in the state pension age to recessionary pressures.
By 2020, it is predicted more than a third of workers will be over 50, so it is crucial employers understand the differing needs of this generation of workers and make adjustments to limit absence and health problems.
This piece highlights five key tips and tactics for managing the shift in workforce demographics.
1/ Flexible working arrangements
The Equality Act ensures workers cannot be dismissed on the grounds of age, so it is essential employers establish suitable working conditions to allow staff to continue working into old age.
Initiatives such as flexible working, telecommuting, job-sharing can allow employees to continue contributing at the same level, while easing the burden on their time and wellbeing.
Often, older employees are also required to care for elderly friends and relatives or may assume part of the childcare burden for grandchildren. Flexible working allows them to fulfil these obligations or any essential appointments without putting any extra strain on working commitments.
Advancements in technology should only make this easier too, with companies able to take increased advantage of webinars and video conferencing.
2/ Health screenings
The increased prevalence of health conditions among older people could pose a significant problem for employers, leading to higher levels of sickness absence and decreased productivity.
However, in order to flag any potential health issues before they become a problem, employers might consider introducing regular health checks for all employees.
Such health checks can cover everything from blood pressure and cholesterol test to lung function and ECG, providing an accurate picture of the overall health of the subject.
Not only does this allow early warnings to be provided in the case of developing conditions but it also allows employees to gain advice on how to improve their general health and wellbeing, reducing the likelihood of illness.
3/ Health and wellbeing programmes
Such programmes can work hand-in-hand with health screenings in order to improve the overall wellbeing of employees.
There is a huge spectrum of possible initiatives that might be implemented, including on-site health classes, cycle-to-work schemes, nutritional advice, discounted gym memberships or provision of healthy food and snacks.
All of these work to raise awareness around the issues of good health, providing employees with a strong incentive to lead a healthier lifestyle into their old age.
Consequently, health risks will be reduced and wellbeing schemes have been shown to reduce absenteeism and increase productivity.
4/ Employee assistance programmes (EAPs)
Working into older age presents challenges for employees as much as it does for employers.
Difficulties arising from the need to care for elderly relatives or adapting to a shifting office dynamic have the potential to affect daily performance. In the longer term, this might even lead to stress-related absence, so it is important to establish a support structure for staff.
EAPs provide access to experienced counsellors and a 24/7 telephone helpline, allowing them to discuss any issues in confidentiality.
Employees can use services for themselves or their families, helping them to resolve any troubling matters and develop effective coping mechanisms.
5/ An ageing plan
In order to best tackle an ageing workforce, it is important to discover the extent of the changes that may be faced by your organisation.
Analyse the demographics of your workforce and identify high-risk positions where ageing staff may pose a challenge in the coming years.
These employees may not be able to continue contributing in the same way as they get older but there may be other roles where they can make an impact on the business.
Demographics can also have an effect on employee motivation, as different factors will shape their desires and preferences at different times of life. A benefits package must be flexible enough to cater to all staff, taking into account these fluctuations in motivation.