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How can HR support the millions delaying retirement?

According to data from Opinium Research, compiled on behalf of Legal & General, 2.5 million pre-retirees will have to delay retirement because of the economic downturn, with 1.7 million expected to have to keep working indefinitely, either in part-time or full-time roles.

With the average retirement age in the UK for men being 64.7 years and for women 63.6 years, those workers who planned to delay their retirement have stated they would delay the decision by at least three years, on average, with almost two thirds unable to afford the loss of income during a cost of living crisis.

Other reasons for delaying retirement included people enjoying their jobs as well as not feeling ‘old enough’ to retire yet. While many workers may choose to retire later because they enjoy their work, there are millions of people who are making this decision based on necessity, rather than personal choice. 

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In addition, projections by the Government Office for Science highlight one in seven individuals will be over 75 by 2040 with a projection that by 2030, half of the UK's population will be above 50. As a result, the UK's productivity and economic success will be more and more dependent on older employees, which will require HR to develop policies to help and support an older workforce’s requirement.

Whether that’s flexible working, reasonable adjustments, job-related training and/or an enhanced reward systems, policies will need to be for this purpose.


Changing perceptions

As well as support workers through HR policies and practices, organisations will also need to address the perception that older employees believe employers will prioritise younger talent, given data from a report by Workwise highlights that 51% of older workers believe they are not valued fairly.

Although there may be an older workforce, there are actually five distinct generations currently sharing the workplace with Traditionalists (born 1927 to 1945), Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964), Generation X (born 1965 to 1980), Millennials (born 1981 to 2000) and Generation Z (born 2001 to 2020) now all working.

These different generations co-existing in the workplace may have differing behaviours with varying outlooks, having grown up in different contexts. As a result, they usually have different work expectations, abilities and competencies, and although older workers can help educate younger colleagues, they can also learn from newer employees.


Applying appropriate organisational policies

While there are exceptions in every generation, knowing a worker's general framework of experience can assist employers in understanding their point of reference and apply organisational policies appropriately.

There must be a recognition that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing multiple generations in the workplace and that organisations need to adapt as their workforce fluctuates and grows.

For example, some workers may face difficulties while dealing with new technological advancements in the workplace and therefore HR needs to apply different training methods as these employees may require more attention; where some may already be accustomed and may not need the same level of upskilling.


Accommodating a multigenerational workforce

A multigenerational workforce can offer significant benefits to employers, in the form of creativity, problem-solving skills and overall experience. Therefore, tailoring an office space to accommodate the characteristics of different generations can enable all staff to reach their full potential. However, this must include being sensitive to the differing work styles and preferred communication channels.

Younger employees may prefer to receive information digitally, while employees from earlier generations may be more comfortable with printed documents and having more immediate access to management to answer their questions.

A wider range of recruitment, selection and retention strategies should also be established, along with a range of employee benefits choices to meet the needs and wants of each generation of worker, as they will be in different phases of their lives and may be focused on different areas of benefits.

Each generation has something valuable to add to the workplace and managers, through the support of HR departments, need to make sure that their skills, abilities and competences are utilised as a positive throughout all aspects of the organisation.

Jonathan Lord is a doctor and senior lecturer in HR management and employment law at the University of Salford Business School