6 Superpowers Of The #Over50s At Work

And the benefits to UK Employers of attracting and retaining more older workers

The good news is we are living longer, the bad news is employers are slow to recognise the value of older workers.  If companies invested as much energy into engaging the over 50s as they do graduates then we could boost productivity and the economy by billions.  This was illustrated by PwC’s recent update of their ‘Golden Age Index’, and the findings reinforce the value older workers can bring to organisations, revealing the lost GDP and value from un-utilised older workers.

Sweden is a shining example, increasing older worker employment rates in the UK to those in Sweden would give GDP across the OECD an enormous $2 trillion boost. While matching Sweden’s older worker employment rates in the UK alone would raise GDP by £80bn.

An image of beautiful old architecture sitting by the river in central Sweden.

It’s disappointing to see so many people leave the workforce by 55 given the physical and mental health benefits – not to mention the huge financial benefits on your pension and the economy.

Although the UK has gradually increased employment of the over 50s  we still hold a middling position of 19th this year on the index, which is lower than what it was in their last index of 2003.

By 2020, approximately 25% of the workforce will be 55 or older. With many living to 100 and the average age 86, ours 50s are an age where we are still very much ‘mid life’ with so much experience and value to add at work.

The Future of an Ageing Population report from the Government Office for Science highlights, future economic growth will be increasingly dependent on the ability to increase the number of older workers.

The rapid rise in the population ageing putting significant financial pressure on health, social care and pension systems and this will only increase over time. The solution is to offset these costs with the substantial economic benefits of increased employment rates in over 50s.

With decades of experience, knowledge, and skills in their respective industries, older workers are a valuable asset to companies and a logical step to dealing with the economic implications of an ageing population.

We need to look beyond the restrictive stereotypes towards the over 50s and recognise their value in the workforce and understand the boost they can provide to an organization.

So why else should we hire over 50s?

1. Valuble experience

Over 50s bring managerial skills, decades of relevant experience, an understanding of the importance of face to face communication and an astute gut instinct developed from a long-spanning career. Tapping into this can supports faster decision making and increases productivity.

2. Handle complexity & politics

They’re equipped with decades of experience, many over 50s bring a unique ability to handle complex situations and politics, something that is needed in a time of uncertainty after Brexit.  In your 50s and beyond, you know what you’re good at and tend to focus on open transparent delivery of your work, rather than playing politics.

3. Flexible

Over 50s are often more flexible over the hours they do and the range of responsibilities they take on. Often they are open to flexible work arrangements that help but the balance sheet and work scheduling.  And they often have a range of transferred skills based on decades of experience to utilise when needed.  They’re also flexible in terms of the hours they work. By this age many become empty nesters with children moved out and beginning careers of their own.

4. Positive work ethic

Over 50s have confidence and know what they’re good at. They’ve developed a solid work ethic and generational studies in the workplace have shown that older people are generally more reliable.

Findings in a Pew research centre survey  show work ethic is one of the main differences between millennials and the older workforce. Nearly 60% of respondents cited work ethic as one of the big differences between young and old while three-fourths of respondents said older people have a better work ethic.

5. Loyalty

The older workforce are not as money-focused or adamant on climbing the corporate ladder as their younger counterparts. Something that can make hiring employees such a waste of resources, after hiring and training them to find they leave for “greener pastures” after just a few months.

“Older workers tend to be more interested in stability where a recent college graduate might be most concerned about moving up the corporate ladder as quickly as possible.” explains Debi Ritter.

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project

54% of workers older than 65 are still employed by choice, rather than need for money. Over 50s are highly committed, highly educated and identify very strongly with their work and as they grow older they don’t necessarily feel like that identification ends. They want to continue to do something, meaning they’re much less likely to job hop.

6. Powerful networks

Just look on LinkedIn to see the power of the over 50s networks, I know people with over 14,000 contacts. Having been around longer, midsters have been in the workforce for at two or three decades,  more time to meet people and network along the way.  These networks are highly useful in getting projects delivered, often providing faster results.

According to a study conducted by The Center on Aging and Work at Boston College, 46.3% of employer respondents said that their older employees have stronger professional networks and client networks compared to 30% who said the same about their younger workers.

Over 50 superpowers

Embracing the flexible, experienced superpowers of the over 50s, 60s and beyond is one of the most powerful ways to ensure we are staying healthier for longer as individuals but also as organisations.  There is a new generation of midsters who are not ready for early retirement and many who can not afford to either.  More organisations need to take pro active moves to engage these highly skilled, educated, committed and well-connected men and women.

With such an ageing population in the UK, it’s vital we harness the superpowers of the older generations. This would not only have enormous economic benefits to the sum of £80bn in the UK alone, aid healthcare and be better for baby boomers.

According to a 2010 Pew Research Center survey, engaging older people improves mental and physical well being, keeping them active and mentally stimulated. Similar levels of engagement are difficult to achieve outside of work.

We need to provide attractive pension schemes, flexible hours, role redesign, better support and other incentives to encourage over 50s to stay in work. Something which will be a necessary step for the future considering our growing average lifespan.

Look forward not backwards

An image oi a middle aged business man shaking hands with his business partner after completing a deal.

Restrictive thoughts towards age are damaging to the economy and give the over 50s an unneeded confidence-knock, causing new feelings of inferiority towards a job they have previously excelled at for years.

As Mark Gibson, Senior Director for Centrify explains,

I’m 60+ and just got promoted and a salary and stock bump. I’m working harder than ever and making more of an impact than at any other point in my career.  I did have a year out with a health problem and the accompanying loss of confidence took some getting over; so I worked part time to get my mojo back.

The truth is that if you are current on technology and the issues in your industry as well as the best practices in your field, your experience makes you a more valuable player than a youngster.

Constant learning and broadly reading outside of your specialization is essential to increasing your own personal value.

I see no slowing down and expect to contribute as much value till at least 70.

Age is definitely a mindset thing.

Over 50s are a superpower, with such expertise, knowledge and skills developed over decades of successful and fulfilling work  I find it’s an empowering time of life and believe it’s time more organisations started harness these talents.

Credit to PWC’s 2017 edition of their ‘Golden Age Index’.

Photo credit: Saksham Gangwar


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