The Ageing Workforce Award: Aviva

Award Type: 

Winner

A relentless and wide-ranging approach to championing older workers and promoting the inter-generational workplace.

Impacts

  • 33% increase in new over-50s hires
  • 32% jump in new business

Action

Companies with a diverse workforce are able to create better products, deliver a better service and offer a better place to work for employees.

That is the view of Andy Briggs, CEO of Aviva Life in the UK and Ireland, a company that has a target to help get one million more older people into work by 2022. “Many people aged over 50 want to continue to develop their careers, learn new skills, try new things and also share their broad knowledge and experience,” he says. “This is good for everyone, and particularly for employers and their businesses who will benefit from drawing on the talent, creativity and experience of all of their employees, regardless of their age.” It is a view backed up by recent research by Harvard Business Review which claims diversity to be the key to unlocking innovation in a business. In fact, diverse companies are 45% more likely to report growth in market share.

The one million target is achievable, adds Briggs, if employers commit to taking an honest and sustained approach to understanding age bias in their organisations, and welcome the benefits that age diversity brings. Aviva is one such employer and its commitment and strategy – designed to get other businesses thinking about how they can attract and retain over-50s – have resulted in the company winning the Ageing Workforce category at this year’s Responsible Business Awards.

Part of the approach led by the business, the UK’s largest insurer, serving 31 million customers worldwide – is to better meet customer needs. Around 56% of its customers are 50+, so developing products that resonate with them demands a workforce that mirrors its client base.

It is also about filling a gap in the job market. New pensions freedoms mean more over-50s are retiring early. In some parts of Aviva, almost half of the employees are near that age. Plus, one in six people leave the workplace due to caring responsibilities – that’s 300 employees.

By teaming up with charities and organisations to develop a pioneering carers policy, mid-career MOTs and ambitious recruitment campaigns, the firm is not only attracting and retaining older workers, but setting a blueprint for others.
The company also works hard to support and retain carers, which make up one in nine of Aviva staff. By partnering with Mercer, Employers for Carers, the Department of Health, Age UK and Carers UK, it has developed a pilot, known as #wecare, across Aviva UK. This includes: 35 hours paid leave a year for planned events, like hospital appointments; 35 hours paid leave for emergencies a year; extended carer leave, unpaid up to four weeks a year; flexible working; and ‘carers’ passport’ allowing carers to retain flexibility should they change roles.

So far, the strategy is working. Engagement scores for over-50s staff exceed Aviva and UK norms, with 83% agreeing that the business values their health and wellbeing. “By understanding the needs of our over-50s customers and building a workforce that understands, empathises and has the necessary skills to deliver exceptional service, we're delivering sector-leading customer advocacy,” says the business. 

The company is also increasing retention and performance rates by helping older workers progress and develop. In 2017, the number of existing employees making a vertical or horizontal move increased by 44.8%.

Overall, the number of over-50s hires has jumped 33% in 2017 – and the total proportion of over-50s by 6%, halfway towards the company’s five year target. Meanwhile, the attrition rate among over-50s outstrips that of the UK private sector norm – 12.3% vs 25.7%. According to Aviva, championing older workers is contributing to an increase in new business, which grew 32% in the first half of 2017 vs 2016.

“With 1.5 million a year leaving the workforce, businesses are going to struggle if they don't embrace older workers,” adds Briggs.