Case study: Nationwide's age-related strategies

The key idea is that changing employee demographics are an opportunity rather than a challenge

“The average age of the organisation hasn’t changed, that’s still 37,” says HR director Ann Brown. “Our oldest employee has changed though. We now have a 77-year-old working for us. And 13% of employees are over 50 and around 2% are over 60. So the top end and the bottom end have changed.

“It brings a lot of life experiences and creates something much more representative of the communities we work in.”

The other key point underpinning Nationwide’s age strategy is that it isn’t a separate strategy at all. Rather, awareness of a changing age demographic is incorporated into every facet of HR at the organisation.

“I wouldn’t say that we started off saying ‘let’s have an age strategy.’ As an organisation we don’t think in that kind of segmented way,” says Brown. “We’re very keen to ensure we’ve got a well balanced and representative workforce, and age is just one part of that.”

Ensuring Nationwide attracts and retains older talent hinges on being open-minded about what people might like to do at what age, including when it comes to apprenticeships and graduate schemes. “We recently had our first over-70 graduate application,” says Brown. “And we had 42 applications from people just under 50.”

The way job sites and vacancy boards are presented plays a crucial role in attracting talent of all ages, with imagery of workers of all ages playing a subtle but vital role, adds Amanda Rice, head of culture and inclusion. “Linked to that is the imagery we’re using
for our customers and members,” she adds. “All of this is linked. People who see pictures of Nationwide products may be potential employees.”

A similar age-agnostic approach is taken to Nationwide’s talent programme. “We have some over-50s on our talent programme, so it’s not all about ‘bright young things’,” says Rice. “It’s very much looking at who shows potential; whatever their age we want to develop them. I think that’s absolutely key.”

She adds that unconscious bias training specifically on age is important. “We’re starting with senior managers first. Then we’ll move on to other employees,” says Rice. “That’s making sure people understand how these implicit associations can impact on
the decisions they’re making.

“We’ve also built an online training module mandatory for all employees that gives an example of where someone in the workplace is, through what is seen as ‘banter’, actually being stereotyped because of their age.”

Though the company doesn’t make assumptions about what someone could or couldn’t do based on their age, it’s important to be flexible around accommodating people’s changing physical capabilities, says Brown.

“A number of people in our branches work on their feet all day. That’s quite physical, though we are able to rotate them around,” she says. “We have a range of opportunities that mean it’s very easy for people to change jobs as required. That’s not something that arises just for age.”

Nationwide is also mindful of caring pressures caused by the increased life expectancies of employees’ parents. A key benefit geared towards this is private medical insurance for family members, says Brown.

Further reading

The HR challenges of an ageing workforce