Andy Briggs, CEO of Phoenix Group, spoke at our Annual Conference: Back to the future on 28 June 2023 on the topic of retaining older disabled workers. Here are the highlights from his presentation and his recommendations for employers.
The UK population is ageing, and so is the labour market: around 30% of the UK working age population is over 50. At the same time, many leave the labour market prematurely and UK business suffers from a shortage of talent.
To build inclusive and diverse workplaces, grow the UK economy and solve the talent shortage, employers need to adapt to the ageing workforce. They must change their ways of working, keeping in mind that a significant proportion of older workers have or will acquire a disability or condition. It’s also important to remember that an increasing number of people are balancing work with caring responsibilities: around 50% of women have a caring responsibility by the time they reach 45, with the same percentage for men when they reach 55.
Businesses need to ‘recruit, retain and re-train’.
Actions employers can take
- Implement a modern way of working adapted to the needs of several generations of workers
9 out of 10 people want to be able to work flexibly, so a flexible working policy must be a priority. Employers must also take explicit action to support the health and wellbeing of their older workers by discussing workplace adjustments and promoting manager awareness and support.
An example: when a telecoms company realised older engineers were finding it challenging to check fuse boxes under customers’ stairs, they developed a way for the engineers to use video to advise customers on how to fix the problems themselves.
- Develop robust processes that support the recruitment and retaining of older workers
Have a robust talent recruitment and development process – and keep evolving it. This involves ensuring your shortlists are always diverse, by asking the question: What truly are the key criteria for a role? Employers should also prioritise internal talent development. As an example, Jaguar Land Rover re-trained the ageing workers who hand-stitched their cars – many of whom had conditions like arthritis – to become the trainers of future seat stitchers.
- Maintain cultural consistency
Do your actions live up to your words? The answer will be dependent on the actions of direct line leaders, who are the main factor in determining whether someone joins, stays, or leaves. But tone from the top is crucial too. Get the right leadership at every level, and the rest becomes detail. This focus on leadership is what gives cultural consistency.