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Career breaks diminish older workers’ confidence

Stopping work, even temporarily, significantly impacts the confidence over-50s have in the relevance of their skills, according to research from pension provider Aegon.

The study found only 15% of 50-59-year-olds who are currently in work feel their skills are irrelevant to today's workforce. 

However, 54% of those in their 50s who have stopped work or entered retirement feel the same.

Read more: Government commits to supporting older workers

Tom Lakin, global director at HR consultancy Resource Solution, said employers need to work harder to retain people over 50 and keep them in the workforce.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Irrespective of age, employees want to be valued, given flexibility, feel rewarded and be treated with dignity and respect. Where age and generation does begin to play a factor is how these different elements of careers are prioritised. 

“The age-related differences in workplace and career priorities need to be understood by both HR and talent acquisition leaders.

“The days of a one-size-fits-all linear career with aspirations of a corner office and job for life are long gone, yet many organisations have yet to adapt their attraction and engagement narrative.”

Read more: How to reconcile older worker needs with the digitalisation of workplaces

Jackie Handy, inclusive leadership specialist, said employers should encourage older workers to continue to train and upskill to avoid a loss of confidence as the workplace evolves.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “The desire to train and upskill is linked to the overall value an employee believes they have within an organisation. Organisations should be highlighting how such investment helps employees move from good to great, rather than bad to good. 

“Don’t underestimate what employees over 50 already bring to the table, instead complement their contributions and show how further development will equip them for the changing needs in their role.” 

Lakin suggested reviewing employee data to make sure older workers’ feedback is being taken into account.

He said: “It’s easy to focus on the high level and baseline data but it’s especially important to segment by age – older workers' feedback can sometimes be an outlier and can be distorted or hidden if a workforce is predominantly younger.  

“Segmenting the data and identifying unique trends or patterns amongst workers over 50 will help HR leaders tailor appropriate and targeted interventions if needed.”

Aegon's research was conducted by H/Advisors Cicero in July 2023 and is based on the feedback of 900 adult workers and 100 retirees in the UK.