June 12, 2019
With a rising retirement age and the prediction that by 2020, a third of UK workers will be aged 50 or over, new research from job board Totaljobs and recruitment firm Robert Walters found that many workers in their 50s find their career options and development opportunities are extremely limited.
Over a third (37 percent) of people in their fifties are working in middle management or below, showing plenty of room for progression with at least another decade of work before retirement. Yet, even with the state pension age due to increase to 66 for both men and women by October 2020, the research shows that 41 percent of workers over 50 feel there is a lack of opportunities available to them at their current workplace. This poses the risk of over 15 years’ untapped potential as workers’ careers stagnate and their amassed knowledge and experience isn’t utilised.
When it comes to progression, workers in their 50s are uncertain of how to achieve this, with a third (34 percent) stating they are not at all aware of what they need to do to secure a promotion. Men are more confident, with 27 percent claiming they know exactly what they need to do, compared to just 19 percent of women.
Lack of development
It is not only a lack of awareness that is hindering people in their fifties from career progression. A fifth (21 percent) note that a lack of training acts as a barrier to their development. Of those who have had access to training, 90 percent have undertaken it, showing those in their fifties are eager to learn and are prepared to add more strings to their bow if the opportunity arises.
An ageing and underused workforce is not an issue of the future, but a problem that exists right now
Overlooking the upskilling of older workers poses a risk to UK businesses – with two thirds of employers reporting a skills shortage last year, the older segment of our workforce could add value and boost output. If progression paths aren’t made clear, 45 percent of workers in their fifties would look for a role elsewhere.
The research also identified some of the industries that are leading the way in creating opportunities for progression. People working in the insurance, environment and education sectors feel they are most aware of how to land a promotion (64 percent, 50 percent 42 percent respectively). Meanwhile, just 9 percent of people in sales, 13 percent of social care workers, 22 percent of lawyers and 23 percent of health professions feel that they know their route to promotion.
Some sectors create plenty of opportunity for older workers, with those in media (75 percent), HR (71 percent), IT (70 percent) and financial services (62 percent) among the most likely to have been promoted at their current workplace. However, many workers in their fifties experience a slowing of their career, with a quarter (25 percent) of those working in science, a third (30 percent) in health and almost two fifths (37 percent) in education having not been offered a promotion by their current employer.
Alexandra Sydney, Group Marketing Director at Totaljobs said: “Our research reveals a significant proportion of the UK workforce believe they are being overlooked for promotion opportunities. As life expectancy increases and the number of older workers rises, employers need to ensure they cater to the needs of all employees across the generations, lest they see a dip in engagement and productivity.
“Tackling age-related bias both during the recruitment process and within workplace culture is essential to fostering an inclusive environment that values longevity of experience, while also acknowledging that learning and development doesn’t become less relevant with age. Older workers clearly see the value of training opportunities, so employers should look to understand where this cohort want to upskill, or even reskill, in order to further their career.
“Alongside this, promoting inclusive employment policies and highlighting progression paths is essential in making sure experienced workers feel valued. Failing to invest in older workers could lead to them feeling devalued and ‘checking out’ long before retirement.”
Chris Hickey, UK CEO at Robert Walters said: “The fact remains that older workers will continue to represent a growing number and proportion of the labour market and so it is not wise to switch off training and development opportunities for those reaching a certain age. Not least because of the impact it will have on motivation, productivity and diversity.
“Workers in mid-life have typically amassed significant skills, experience and knowledge that can be invaluable to their employer. In this candidate-short market – exacerbated by Brexit-related concerns and increased demand for highly skilled labour – companies need to utilise this opportunity and consider fine-tuning hiring and development strategies in order to attract and retain older professionals. The key takeaway from our findings is that an ageing and underused workforce is not an issue of the future, but a problem that exists right now.”