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Older workers want career development not retirement planning, says study

Organisations are overlooking the potential of older workers, and are too often thinking about their retirement rather than their training and development, new research claims.

The over-50s age group, termed 'baby boomers', are 'becoming frustrated and demotivated by not being able to develop their careers, contribute to business growth and pass their valuable knowledge and insights onto younger workers', the report from Ashridge Executive Education said.

Don't Put Baby (Boomers) in the Corner: Realising the potential of the over 50s at work pointed out that many older employees need and want to work longer, and account for around a third of the working population.

Mismatch between needs and perceptions

Drawing on a survey of more than 2,000 over 50s, as well as HR professionals, it found that there was a mismatch between what older workers want and how they are portrayed, managed and valued within organisations.

They are still ambitious and hungry for continued growth and development, the report said, and contrary to popular belief, are keen to step out of senior roles to find new ways of putting their hard-won strategic skills and experience to good use - so opening up positions to let the next generation through.

HR professionals were found to be much more focused on developing younger generations, despite the well-documented benefits of employing age-diverse workforces, the report said.

For older workers, HR emphasis was on retirement and financial planning, with little effort spent on finding ways for them to share their knowledge and experience. Only 1 per cent of HR staff felt older workers needed career development.

Stimulate to motivate

'The findings are a real wake-up call for organisations to think about how valued their older workers feel and are portrayed, both in and outside the business,' said Research Fellow Dr Carina Paine-Schofield, who co-authored the report with Ashridge associate Sue Honoré.

'Baby boomers are often in senior positions and are role models for others in the business. If they are not stimulated and engaged at work, the knock-on effect on the motivation levels of others could be enormous.

'Organisations also need to think about how the way they perceive and manage older workers impacts on recruitment and their brand image as an employer.'

Acas publications and services

Acas can visit your workplace and raise staff awareness on issues surrounding age, age discrimination and diversity; see Equality, Diversity & Inclusion: how Acas can help.

Acas also offers practical training on Age and the repeal of the Default Retirement Age, Equality, diversity and the Equality Act 2010, essential Skills for supervisors, Work/life balance and Flexible working.

If you have questions about Retirement or need free, impartial advice on any employment relations issue, call the Acas Helpline on 0300 123 1100, or consult Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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