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Older or Wiser – Profiting From a Diverse Approach

October 8, 2015 by  
Filed under Diversity Consulting

Are organizations still paying lip service to Diversity and Age Positive legislation, or are we seeing tangible benefits from investment in an older and diverse workforce – Careers & Jobs UK investigate the growing issue.

On the 1st October 2006 the Department for Work and Pensions introduced the Age Positive legislation. Designed to prevent companies from overlooking older people because of their age, the campaign was greeted by employers with a lukewarm reception. Most companies’ primary concern was managing their recruitment advertising campaigns to avoid a hefty court case.

Shifting sands
Due to the current economic environment, companies need to adapt and change their working practices along with it. And as companies evolve, employers need their workers to remain flexible.

According to a study done by Bendick, Jackson and Romero, as seen on BBC News, some of the qualities associated with young employees include creativity, willingness to use new technology and lower income expectations.

These qualities are perfect attributes to have in your company during a recession because businesses need innovation and drive to survive it.

The study indicates older employees have qualities that include practical knowledge, loyalty and experience. These are vital assets that will undoubtedly add value to a company during tough times.

Organizations that implement the Age Positive campaign as part of their recruitment strategies are beginning to see the benefits of this in key areas such as customer service.

B&Q, the DIY and garden store recently won the ‘Age Positive Retailer of the Year’ award at the People in Retail Awards.
B&Q chief executive, Ian Cheshire commented: “We have found that older workers have a great rapport with customers, as well as a conscientious attitude and real enthusiasm for the job.”

Apart from customer service improvements, B&Q’s statistics show that since they started recruiting older workers into the company, they have experienced tangible benefits; such as, 18% growth in profits, staff turnover is six times lower and short-term absenteeism is down 39%.

Research done by Lancaster University Management School has found that customer satisfaction increased by 20% at restaurants that employ staff over the age of 60.

Rachel Krys, campaign director of the Employers Forum on Age, commented favorably on this and said: “Many people make a good contribution at work and only short-sighted organizations would risk removing talented people just because a milestone birthday is approaching.”

Last year the UK Working Nation report done by Vodafone, revealed that older people are the most content and enthusiastic employees in Britain, as reported by Management Today. More than 50% of respondents said that they went to work “to express a skill, talent or passion”.

Sydney (92) from New Malden works as a Garden centre customer advisor at B&Q and commented positively about his work.
“Working at B&Q gives me the chance to put my knowledge and experience to good use, advising customers on their gardening projects. On top of that, working with people of all ages gives youngsters the chance to learn a little from an old timer like myself, and they help to keep me young at heart!”

The benefits are threefold as customers, employers and older employees gain from the endeavor.

Jean (72) from Brentwood told Retail Week that working at Sainsbury’s helped her cope with her sanity after her husband passed away.

“Working means you get to meet people, get yourself tidied up and get out of the house. I really think that working longer prolongs your life,” she said.

“Maybe it’s a work ethic thing, but I find that a lot of people prefer to ask us older staff questions, particularly if it’s about cooking and things like that,” she added.

Worst off during the recession

According to news mooted in the press, graduates and the youth of today are hit worst by the recession.

As a result, the government have implemented new schemes to introduce jobs for young people or training positions.

The Backing Young Britain campaign will create 100,000 new jobs for under 25s as well as 50,000 additional jobs in “unemployment hotspots”.

This project will cost the UK tax payers £1bn and according to the Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, is our ‘moral obligation’.

However, latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) counter this point and indicate that it is in fact older people who are worse off in the recession.

The Prime Initiative reported that although both groups are having a torrid time, the figures show that older people find it harder to get back into work after being made redundant.

Bryan (52) a divorcee from Kent, previously worked at a company that refurbished offices.
After being made redundant he found it extremely hard to get another job because he had limited skills and no education.
He enrolled for an English course that enabled him to teach English to youngsters up to the age of 12.

“And now I’m off to Taiwan in a couple of weeks to teach English to nine-year olds,” he said excitedly adding: “I’m extremely thrilled that I got in and I plan to travel and save up most of my money because at this stage it’s no use for me to stay in England.”

Although Age Positive legislation forces businesses to look at older people differently when it comes to employment, it doesn’t proactively create positions for them.

Diverse employment

The best solution to the age debacle seems to lie within the combination of ages, backgrounds and ethnicity.

B&Q not only won the ‘Age Positive Retailer of the Year’ award because they have employed older workers but also because they have a mixture of diverse groups.

“There are clear business benefits to employing a work force which is diverse and reflects its customer profile,” chief executive, Ian Cheshire added.

Quick advice guide for unemployed, older citizens

1. Don’t panic! Update your CV as the wealth of experience in your field will be priceless.
2. Further your skills as soon as possible especially within technology. Learn to use different computer programs as well as using the internet.
3. Consider a different field of interest that can benefit from your current skills
4. Remember interviews are going to be tough. Familiarize yourself with the rules, prepare, and dress the part.
5. Visit your nearest Job Centre Plus for advice and guidance.

About Author:

Chantel is a regular contributor of career advice and jobs news for leading UK Job Board

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