Magazine article Public Finance

Make the Most of Expertise Built Up over Years at Work

Magazine article Public Finance

Make the Most of Expertise Built Up over Years at Work

Article excerpt

Older employees already play a significant role in the public sector, with the latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions showing 50-64 year olds account for at least 30% of the workforce. Their influence is set to grow, with estimates that the 50-plus age group will represent one third of the total UK working population by 2020.

New research suggests, however, that employers are failing to realise the potential of this important 'baby boomer' generation and are putting older staff on a slow path to retirement instead of looking at how their skills and expertise might be used to good effect.

This is the key message to come out of a new Ashridge report Don't Put Baby (Boomers) in the Corner: Realising the Potential of the Over 50s at Work. It shows that baby boomers, many of whom may have another 20 years left to work, are effectively being sidelined and are becoming increasingly frustrated and demotivated by not being able to develop their careers and pass their valuable knowledge and insights onto younger workers.

The research reveals a genuine mismatch between what older employees want from work and the way they are portrayed, managed and valued. The survey of 2,000-plus over 50s shows that baby boomers are still ambitious, want challenging jobs and are hungry for continued growth and career development. They are driven by a desire for interesting work, a sense of achievement, pride and being able to leave a legacy.

In contrast, the focus of HR professionals - and, indeed, of managers - appears to be on developing younger generations to fulfil their potential, with development for older workers mainly centred around retirement and financial planning.

There is also a common misconception that baby boomers are hanging onto senior roles, blocking the next generation of talent. The reality is that older workers often actively want to move out of their operational roles and make sideways moves into more strategic positions or into jobs where they can coach and develop others.

Worryingly, the research showed that the majority of organisations are doing very little to ensure knowledge and experience are shared across generations and appear to be willing to let this resource walk out of the door.

So, as a manager, what can you do to make sure older staff maximise their contribution and continue to thrive at work?

1 Don't make assumptions

Do not assume that because someone is past a certain age, they will want to take their foot off the gas. Some people will want to scale down and retire, but more are still hungry for challenges, are keen to continue developing their careers and want to make a meaningful contribution. The key to maximising the contribution of older staff is to treat them as individuals rather than lumping them all into the same pot.

2 Keep it informal

Older workers often shy away from 'formal' career conversations; they want to keep their options open or are worried about being sidelined or forced into discussing retirement when it isn't even on their agenda. If you can keep the dialogue informal, you are much more likely to have an open, honest conversation with older staff about what they want from work and how they see the future.

3 Make the most of mentoring

Mentoring is one of the most effective (and cost-effective) ways of passing on skills and knowledge between generations. …

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