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Age is biggest barrier to career progression

One in five (20%) British workers cited their age as their biggest career obstacle

Age is the biggest factor preventing employees from progressing in their career, according to research by ADP.

The survey of nearly 10,000 European working adults found that one in five (20%) British workers cited their age as their biggest career obstacle. This was followed by favouritism (7%), lack of opportunities with their current employer (7%), qualifications (5%), and family needs (5%).

The issue was found to get worse as workers get older, with 46% of over-55s and 27% of those aged 45 to 54 feeling this way.

Older employees were also less likely to believe their employer cares about their future within the organisation. While 79% of 16- to 24-year-olds think their employer is very interested in their development, just over 60% of those older than 45 feel this way.

Annabel Jones, HR director at ADP UK, said employers should be doing more to support older workers. “If employees feel there are barriers between them and their career goals that are outside of their control it can be disheartening,” she said.

“To have a properly engaged and committed workforce employers must ensure all employees are treated fairly and receive the support and recognition they deserve. Similarly, organisations need to address any generational concerns felt by employees to benefit from the value that diverse age and experience levels bring to the workplace.”

Patrick Thomson, senior programme manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, told HR magazine that businesses are not currently taking advantage of the skills and potential of older workers.

“Many older workers want to learn and develop skills, use existing skills in new ways, and share their knowledge and experience with others,” he said. “The association with training and progression being something only for younger workers is becoming increasingly obsolete, not to mention discriminatory.

“We know that although many older workers would like opportunities to develop their careers, they are less likely to expect – or ask – for training. Older women in particular are more likely to report that they have been overlooked for promotion or training at work, and are more likely to leave as a result. We need a culture change so that employers and individuals work together to ensure that everyone can progress at work regardless of their age.”

Thomson added that there are plenty of ways employers can support older workers to progress, which in turn helps retain a highly skilled and experienced section of the workforce. “Effective and consistent HR practices help sustain older workers’ motivation and can unlock ideas and willingness to contribute,” he said. “This includes providing frequent one-to-one meetings and regular performance appraisals, verbal praise from managers, and public recognition of good work, skills and experience.

“Having fair and equal opportunities to progress at work is just as important in the last 20 years of your working life as the first.”