HR Strategies for Managing Older Employees

11th July 2016

Older man at computer in office With the ageing of the UK population and gradual changes to the state pension age, many people are staying in work longer than in the past. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), almost 10 million people aged 50 and over are now in employment nationally, making up 31% of the workforce. HR payroll software companies include the ability to analyse and manage various workforce demographics at any point in time;  all of IRIS FMP’s HR packages are geared to help HR teams to manage older members of the workforce effectively.

At present, too many organisations are still missing out on the skills and experience offered by employees in the over-50 age bracket. Problems include failing to recruit older applicants and not having the right strategies in place to manage older staff members – for instance not considering them for promotion or training opportunities.

However, with retirement ages steadily rising, the trend for older workers is set to continue, and companies need to take advantage of this. Here we look at some of the steps HR teams should be considering to create successful age-related strategies.


It is currently estimated that as many as two thirds of workers over 50 don’t succeed in finding another job after becoming unemployed. Many are not registered as out of work and simply give up looking after failing to be offered interviews. This means a lot of talent and experience are being lost. Recruiters therefore need to consider how to encourage older people to apply, which will involve overhauling recruitment systems to avoid discrimination.

It is all too easy to reflect an unconscious bias towards younger applicants when recruiting, for instance by using loaded terms such as “vibrant” and “energetic” in advertising. More applications from a wider field are likely to come in if you avoid using language which could be seen as discriminatory.

Another bar to recruitment could be only placing advertisements on social media platforms which fewer older candidates are likely to use. Making stereotyped assumptions is yet another potential problem. It is sometimes assumed that a job is only suitable for a younger applicant when in fact an older worker could also have the qualities required.

Having the right HR recruitment software can help here, by allowing you to collect data about applicants and ensure best practice, as well as compliance with equality legislation. Statistical reports and charts, many of which are included as standard, can be produced on any protected characteristic, including age.

Carrying Out an ‘Age Audit’

To ensure that older workers are not being overlooked, it is important for organisations to have an idea about the age profile in different departments and in the local area. Pensions minister Baroness Altmann has advised that companies should carry out an ‘age audit’. This means gathering data on the ages of staff, as well as how old they are when they join and leave your organisation.

Looking at which areas of your business are mainly staffed by over-50s will not only help to plan how to replace them as they leave over the coming years, but also mean you can look at how they are being managed. For instance, are older staff getting a chance to apply for promotion or being offered training which will help to increase productivity and job satisfaction?

Training and Development

Sometimes it is wrongly assumed that training older staff is a waste of time because they will soon be retiring. But in fact older workers are far less likely to change jobs than younger ones, and giving the right training will also increase this loyalty. One way to open up more opportunities is to offer line managers training to increase awareness of age bias and avoid unconscious ageism.

Part of an effective age-related HR strategy involves making sure that annual appraisals and other mentoring processes take account of the aspirations of older workers and do not just assume they are happy to continue in exactly the same role. Someone who is currently in their early 50s might want to continue working until their late 60s or even older, so this individual still has a lot of service to give and it is worth investing in their development.

Flexible Working

While flexible and part-time working are increasingly popular with all age groups, they can have particular advantages for older workers. For instance, working flexible hours can make it easier for staff to cope with caring responsibilities, help them to prepare for retirement gradually, or take into account any health issues.

Choosing the right HR payroll software can enable companies to manage flexible working arrangements effectively. IRIS FMP’s self-service software packages, Amity and Teamspirit, are both ideal for this. A major advantage of Amity is that it can be accessed securely on any device, making it easy for staff who are either working away from the office or are home based to check their information.

Many older people are keen to work and can bring great benefits to organisations, since they have experience and skills built up over the years as well as good contacts. Having the right age-related strategies in place can help to ensure your organisation does not miss out on this important area of talent.