Why it pays to be an age-friendly employer
Mike Mansfield, August 25, 2020
At a time when the burden of preparing for retirement falls more heavily on individuals and governments are talking about scaling back benefits, the role that companies play in getting people ready has never been more important. To meet that expanded responsibility, employers must become age friendly
If you think that’s just a euphemism for accommodating older workers, you are mistaken. Age-friendly means just what it says - creating a work environment in which people of all ages have the support they need to thrive.
The help that employers offer across a range of areas—skill-building, wellness programs, flexible schedules, benefits—makes a difference to people across the age spectrum. It also creates a significant impact on the companies themselves.
Research has shown that multi-generation teams are more productive and better at responding to the needs of the marketplace. By making use of everyone’s talents, age-friendly workplaces even help boost economies.
At Aegon, we recently completed our ninth annual Survey of Retirement Readiness, and the report we produced The New Social Contract: Age Friendly Employers drew on responses from 16,000 people in 15 countries. The people we heard from made it clear they need assistance - only 25% of respondents said they were on track to have the income they will need in retirement.
What do employers have to do to boost that number?
Provide retirement and health benefits that are portable.
The notion of a ‘job for life’ is a thing of the past, which means most people will work in multiple places during their careers. When they move, their benefits - especially retirement savings - have to go with them.
Offer retirement planning services and advice.
Employees, as a rule, are not financial experts, and they struggle making decisions about how much to save and where to invest it. They need and want a helping hand.
Based on our findings, they also would benefit from more education in basic money matters. A majority of those we surveyed couldn’t correctly answer three questions designed to gauge financial literacy.
Promote healthy lifestyles.
Offering nutritious snacks and exercise programs in the office or at local gyms will lead to a healthier workforce, one in which employees can be more useful and keep working as long as they want. More than eight in 10 people expressed interest in participating in such programs.
Make room for flexible work arrangements.
At every stage of life, people face challenges balancing their jobs and personal lives. Whether they are parents with young children or middle-aged employees caring for elderly relatives, they need some flexibility in their schedules and employers should try to accommodate that to retain talent.
If the COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything, it is that flexible work schedules can be managed far more easily than we previously thought.
Build pathways to retirement.
You might want to put an extra checkmark next to this one because it was the place in our survey where we saw one of the greatest disparities between what employees want and what employers provide.
More than half of our respondents said they envision a flexible transition towards retirement, yet only 28% said their companies offered such arrangements. People today see retirement not as a cliff, but a gentle glidepath they can travel at their own pace. Smart employers should find a way to make those ends meet.
By becoming more age-friendly, employers will cultivate a workforce whose members are more productive and stand a better chance of being ready for retirement when that day arrives. There are not that many win-win situations in life. This is one of them.
Mike Mansfield is program director for the Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement