More work needed to deliver age diversity in workplace

Six months on from the introduction of age discrimination legislation, UK employers and workers must work harder to build a truly age diverse workplace and to combat age discrimination according to Manpower.

Manpower believes this is of increasing importance as an ageing workforce, a shrinking labour market and growing talent shortage impact the UK’s ability to compete.

The call for action comes as Manpower releases findings from research of over 1,800 employers that shows that despite being more aware of the need to develop an age diverse workforce, few employers are taking proactive steps to ensure they have the formal processes in place to deliver this: only 24% of employers have developed strategies to retain older workers and only 13% have a strategy to attract such workers.

The research reveals that larger employers are significantly more likely to have developed strategies than smaller organisations: 49% of large employers have developed a retention strategy compared to 19% of micro-sized firms and 29% of small companies.

Manpower research also reveals a disparity between the mindset of employers and workers: 52% of employers increasingly expect their workforce to work beyond the age of 65 whilst just 35% of workers believe they will need to supplement their pension.

Mark Cahill, managing director of Manpower UK, says: “The world of work is changing – increased competition, the need to adapt to new technology, a shortage of skills – and employers and workers must recognise these changes and adapt. Older workers provide a valuable skills resource and one which enlightened employers are embracing. To make the most of an age diverse workforce, employers must ensure they have the right processes in place to encourage and support workers at both ends of the age spectrum – providing specialised training and flexible working opportunities, for example.”

Manpower research conducted at the end of 2006 shows that the introduction of the Government’s Employment Equality (Age) Regulations has had a positive impact on employee awareness with 36% of employers believing this has helped raise awareness of age discrimination in their workplace. Large employers (68%) are the most likely to report an increase in awareness with Utilities companies (48%) demonstrating the most impact on their business. Employers in the South West (48%) noted the greatest change whilst those in the East Midlands the least (24%).

Some employers may not have a formal policy promoting age diversity because they do not yet recognise the extent of the need to make the changes needed to attract older workers and to encourage them to work for longer. Or it may be that they feel this balance will right itself without specific intervention.

Mark Cahill continues: “Some attitudes towards age and diversity have changed, but it is clear there still needs to be increased understanding and awareness of the issues around age diversity from employers and workers alike. These attitudes will not change overnight. But with communication, training and a commitment from all involved, we can effect a serious and lasting change.”

Today’s survey announcement coincides with the publication of a new Manpower White Paper, “The New Agenda for an Older Workforce”. The White Paper explores the increasing reality of the global ageing workforce, resulting gaps in workforce supply, and the demand that this is creating.

It proposes strategies that companies can adopt to circumvent these talent challenges; recommendations on how employers can help older workers extend their careers should they choose to do so; and suggestions for the role that governments can play to help solve the older workers conundrum.