A welcome shift to strategic responses - Rachael Saunders on the Championing an Ageing Workforce Award

Rachael Saunders, Age at Work Director, on the trends she sees in this year's Finalists for the Championing an Ageing Workforce Award.   See the Finalist case studies.

Championing an Ageing Workforce Award infographic

Click here or on image above to see a larger version of the infographic

Our population is ageing, but employment isn’t working for people over 50.

Whilst some can choose to retire, too many people are pushed out of work, through redundancy, ill health, or because they need to balance work and care.

The Championing an Ageing Workforce award is here to recognise those companies that are taking action to retain, retrain and recruit older workers, to tackle the dramatic drop off in labour market participation, and make the most of the talent and knowledge of our ageing population.  

Last year, our first time running this award, all three finalists had submitted employee networks for the award – three very different networks, but with initiatives that were employee led.  This year, we have seen a welcome shift to strategic responses to our ageing population, initiated, resourced and led from the top in each organisation.  

Recruitment is a key theme, with St Ledger Homes of Doncaster, Barclays and Steelite all working hard to be seen as employers of choice.  Barclays has particularly innovated with older apprenticeships and returnships to bring older workers into the organisation.  For Steelite, their local employer brand in Stoke is precious, and their commitment to a multi-generational workforce is crucial to attracting the talent they need.  

St Ledger Homes had a powerful focus on retention, with a combination of leadership and strategy, and deeply personal, tailored line management. This allowed them to be truly creative in finding solutions to retain the older workers who had much such a huge contribution to the organisation over time.  

Retraining was a part of the mix for all of our finalists, from apprenticeships at Barclays, to an impressive programme of life-long learning at Steelite, and reskilling for new roles at St Ledger Homes.

The business response to our ageing population is a new part of the responsible business agenda, and the progress from last year’s entries is tangible.  

The winner of the Championing an Ageing Workforce Award, St Ledger Homes of Doncaster, won the support of the judges because they had a clear strategic response to their ageing workforce, led from the top and fully resourced and planned, combined with a deep commitment to the people that work for them and to their local community. 

Susan Jordan, the chief executive of St Ledger Homes, attended a Seeing is Believing visit on age at work in May 2015, and since then has put in place a programme that includes; regular career conversations, support to retrain, a redeployment register, a flexible retirement scheme, and a work experience scheme for tenants who need help to access work. 

The integration of the support for employees with support for the local community is impressive.  This work has resulted in strengthening the reputation of the organisation, to the extent that it has been decisive in winning new business.  It has also reduced turnover and recruitment costs. 

The speed at which this has been achieved, and its impact, is impressive, and there is much that others can learn. 

See the Championing an Ageing Workforce Award Finalist case studies.