survey: Analysis and insights presented its annual survey results yesterday at a session with analysis from experts Kim Chaplain and Patrick Thomson.

Older man walking to work in London


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A huge appetite for learning new things and for career change and slow progress on tackling age bias in the recruitment process were two of the standout findings in’s annual survey of older workers, according to two leading experts.

Responding to the survey results at a National Older Workers Week panel yesterday, Patrick Thomson, Head of Research, Analysis and Policy from Phoenix Insights, said people of all ages were open to learning, but too often they were not getting the opportunities to do so. The survey showed 88% of older workers are keen to learn something new, but, while most [72%] had had  training recently, of those who hadn’t, 45% said it was because training was prioritised for younger people and 34% said it was prioritised for full-time workers.

Thomson added that it can be expensive to switch careers entirely, but there may be changes, such as upskilling or swapping roles, that might work just as well to help people get out of a rut.

He noted that the survey showed linear career progression was not a priority for most older workers and said sideways moves or what is known as the ‘squiggly career’ were popular as work life balance became more important.

Thomson was also interested in the figures on caring responsibilities – just 27% of those polled did not have a caring responsibility, showing, he said, that care is ‘not niche’ and forms a core part of workforce needs. He also drew attention to the need for check-ins with older workers about how they feel about their health, career and finances. Phoenix Insights recently published a report on Midlife MOTs and is rolling out its own programme after a pilot.

Ageism to an open culture

Kim Chaplain, Specialist Advisor – Work at the Centre for Ageing Better, said the survey findings on high levels of perceived ageism in the recruitment process [57% of current jobseekers mentioned it] was unsurprising. She said it was “a hard slog” to tackle this issue and it would take time. “It’s not easy to change. There is a lot of ageism in the system,” she said. “We need to keep pushing away at organisations.” Such perceptions affect older workers’ confidence about moving jobs too, she said.

She added that more than 280 employers have signed up to the Centre for Ageing Better’s Age Friendly Employer Pledge since its launch last year. Initially, the focus was on age bias in recruitment, but now the focus is on retention, said Chaplain. That means better conversations with managers, although there are a lot of sensitivities, with managers worried that they may upset people by mentioning retirement and older workers nervous about talking about anything that might be perceived as a weakness. To overcome this requires a more open culture, led from the top, with more involvement of age diversity network groups who can help shape that culture.

Chaplain also called for a greater focus on quality work for over 60s, particularly as more people are working beyond 65, and on celebrating older workers and reaching out to individuals who want to work, but may not come under the purview of Job Centre Pluses.

Thomson said flexible working is an important retention and attraction factor. On demotivation, he added that an international study showed the UK compares badly to the US and Germany. The danger is people leave work early or are pushed out, draw down on their pensions and then find they run into financial problems when they are older.

Other points raised included whether cvs are the best vehicle for recruiting experienced workers. Thomson said that amid concerns about the role of AI in jobs, we need to create more jobs that build on human experience. Chaplain added that she was struck by the diversity of caring that goes on and said this should inform policy. Thomson said Phoenix Group offers paid carer’s leave and said it pays for itself in terms of retention.

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