Age inclusive recruitment: reaching talent of all ages

Post author image. Angela Watson
Angela Watson, Business in the Community Age Campaign Manager, highlights older workers’ untapped reserve of experience that employers can draw on and how age bias can limit access to talent.

Angela Watson, Business in the Community Age Campaign Manager, highlights older workers’ untapped reserve of experience that employers can draw on and how age bias can limit access to talent.

The potential of older recruits

The UK economy is opening up again after the pandemic, and job opportunities are opening up too. At a time when both staff and skills are in short supply, it is important that recruiters can access the widest possible talent pool.

Candidates who are over 50 are often overlooked due to age bias in the workplace and in recruitment processes. This bias includes misconceptions of older candidates’ interest in work and developing their careers, to misplaced assumptions about the skills and adaptability of older employees.1 In a study by Anglia Ruskin University, younger applicants were found to be up to four and a half times more likely to be invited to interview.2

But evidence shows that older workers represent a valuable and skilled resource, bringing knowledge and experience accumulated through their careers, and that employing them can boost profits and customer reach.3 Moreover, older workers are keen to learn, develop and embrace new ways of working.4

BITC’s new toolkit ‘Age Inclusive Recruitment: untapping the talent of over 50s‘ provides employers with practical steps they can take to address age bias in their recruitment process and widen the reach of their talent search.

The impact of the pandemic  

The impact of the pandemic in terms of employment and age has been ‘U-shaped’, with the greatest impact felt by younger and older employees.5 Older workers have been laid off, while others have been on long-term furlough and are now at risk of redundancy as the Job Retention Scheme comes to an end.6,7 As a result, there are now more older job-seekers looking for work. This group represents a reserve of talent.

In September 2020, Business in the Community published its response to the COVID-19 pandemic ‘Time to Fix Up’. In this report, BITC challenged business to build back responsibly from the pandemic, including by tackling inequality in employment by supporting those disadvantaged in the face of rising unemployment.

As the UK economy starts to emerge from lockdown, now is the time to put this challenge into practice. An age-inclusive approach to recruitment, opening opportunities to candidates of all ages, has never been more important.

Older workers are keen to learn, develop and embrace new ways of working.

Angela Watson, Age Campaign Manager at Business in the Community

What can employers do?

BITC’s new toolkit provides advice on what employers can do to reduce age bias in recruitment processes. The toolkit includes 10 Top Tips for CEOs on age-inclusive recruitment shared by Jayne Haines, SVP Talent, Learning and Organisational Development at GSK and member of the BITC Age Taskforce. Actions employers can take to make recruitment more age inclusive include:

  • Embed age inclusive recruitment in your corporate culture, from the boardroom to the jobs board.
  • Alongside training and awareness-raising on age bias in recruitment processes, also include wider actions to promote age inclusion in your workforce. BITC’s toolkit Becoming an Age Friendly Employer can help you.
  • Look at your data. BITC’s toolkit Getting Started on Age: from data to action can help you to do this.
  • Share your good news stories. Awareness-raising can support building an age inclusive culture within your business and also enhance your brand as an employer of choice.
  • Consider supporting BITC’s nationwide employability programmes, perhaps by running a ‘Behind the Scenes’ visit, a placement or by providing volunteer mentors or coaches. This will help to support older jobseekers and access potential recruits. Find out more on BITC’s age pages or by contacting us.
  • Go to the toolkit for Jayne’s Top Tips and more detailed advice on action employers can take to increase age inclusion and reduce age bias in recruitment, available to BITC members via our website.

Not a member? Find out more about how to get involved and join us.

WHAT IF EVERYONE FELT
INCLUDED AT WORK?

References

1 Business in the Community (2017) Older Workers and the Digital Era

2 Drydakis, N et al (2017) Inclusive Recruitment? Hiring Discrimination against Older Workers

3 Business in the Community (2020) Toolkit: Becoming an Age Friendly Employer, November 2020

41 Business in the Community (2017) Older Workers and the Digital Era

5 Business in the Community (2020) COVID-19: economic impact on age in the workplace, 19 May 2020

6 ONS (2021) Living longer: older workers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 4 May 2021

7 Centre for Ageing Better and Institute for Fiscal Studies (2021) Changing patterns of work at older ages, 17 June 2021