Over-50s overlooked for promotion

Workers over 50 are routinely being overlooked for promotion despite possessing the knowledge and experience needed to fill the UK’s leadership skills gap, according to a new report.

The Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM)’s Untapped talent: Can over 50s bridge the leadership skills gap report found that, though over-50s rated their own desire to develop at 94%, 61% of managers say their over-50s workers have low (20%) or very low (41%) potential to progress.

In fact over-50s’ eagerness for progression was higher than the millennial age group (born between 1977 and 1997) surveyed, who trailed in last place with 87%.

Kate Cooper, head of applied research and policy at ILM, said: “There is an inequality in Britain’s workforce that is contributing to a large and worrying leadership skills gap. We see that over-50s are typically not being given equal opportunity to apply their much-needed occupational skills, knowledge and customer focus within a leadership role. This is because older workers are wrongly assumed to lack the desire to learn and progress into more senior positions, when in fact we found they are just as keen, if not keener, than their younger colleagues.” 

The report also revealed that over-50s score higher than younger workers for occupation-specific knowledge and skills and understanding of customers. And yet, despite a desire to advance, less than half (46%) of over-50s managers expected to progress into a more senior position within the next three years, compared with 76% of millennial managers and 62% for Generation X.

Pointing to Department for Work and Pensions figures showing that an estimated 13.5 million jobs will be created over the next 10 years, over which time only seven million young people will enter the labour force, Cooper said: “At a time when the relatively weak performance of UK management is affecting both national and organisational competitiveness, there is a real opportunity for companies to recognise the benefits of an age diverse workforce, and realise the untapped leadership talent of the over-50s by investing in their ongoing training and development.”

ILM’s Untapped talent: Can over 50s bridge the leadership skills gap report surveyed 1,400 UK managers and workers, a sample chosen to broadly represent the country's management and employee population in terms of age, sex and ethnicity.