A keen focus on retaining older workers

As National Older Workers Week kicks off, we speak to panellist David Whitson-Black from Azets about why he is supporting it.


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As National Older Workers Week kicks off, workingwise.co.uk spoke to David Whitson-Black, Global Head of Talent and Performance at accountancy and business advisory firm Azets, who will be taking part in the employer best practice session tomorrow.

Workingwise.co.uk: Why are you taking part in National Older Workers Week?

David Whitson-Black: It’s so important that, as a diverse business with a multigenerational workforce, we recognise that everyone in our organisation has an opportunity to grow, regardless of age. National Older Workers Week is a good opportunity to highlight that. I will be talking about people development rather than recruitment because there has been quite a bit of attention on recruiting older workers but not so much on development opportunities for them. Those opportunities should be there regardless of age, even if you are six months from retirement.  It’s not just about career progression. Learning is good at any age and our world is constantly evolving. We have so much to learn from each other from people of all ages and older workers have so much to give.

WW: What do you offer in terms of career development?

DWD [pictured right]: We have regular career development reviews and have attempted to create a process that involves people having good conversations with managers about what their career aspirations are and what they need to fulfil them. That might mean staying where they are but developing their skills. It doesn’t have to be about progression in the traditional sense. They are then directed to the learning and mentoring they need to get to the next stage. It’s not just talking about their performance and seeing if they are promotion ready. In this way we have opened up the process to be more inclusive and have a 96% completion rate. In 25 years of working in learning and talent development in different organisations  I have never seen such an amazing completion.  It’s not an appraisal. The conversations are much bigger than that. In our staff survey the first comment was from someone over 60 who said that their career had nearly ended, but they like the idea that they could still advance.

WW: When it comes to recruitment, what are you doing to encourage age diversity?

DWB: We now have blind application processes depending on the role and our interview panels are diverse to bring different perspectives. That might include people from different generations. We know that some older people find it difficult to get a job if they don’t have a degree even if they have lots of relevant experience. We are not necessarily looking for people with degrees. We want to make the recruitment experience better for people and open up the field.  For instance, we have had older people joining our early careers programme through apprenticeships because they wanted to change careers.

WW: What about flexible working and wider D & I policies?

DWB: Azets offers hybrid and other forms of flexible working. Team managers are supported to be able to offer flexible working according to the needs of their team rather than adopting a one size fits all approach. They are supported when it comes to conversations about flexible working. In addition to flexible working, we have a new employee resource group called Authentically Azets which promotes diversity, equity and inclusion. We want to start from a truly diverse, inclusive place and as that group matures, we will look at developing other employee networks.  We also have a menopause group, are about to launch lean-in circles for women and are doing a lot on belonging and psychological safety.

WW: What is your focus now?

DWB: We want to increase our awareness of how each generation may have different needs and wants.  We are looking at our benefits package and reviewing our family friendly policies to ensure they are up to date with what people need. We have also just launched a new mentoring programme and want to introduce reverse mentoring on a widescale basis so that younger people and senior leaders can work together and understand each other better.

Join us during National Older Workers Week >>

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