Encouraging older generations back into work

Encouraging older generations back into work

The UK’s nationwide skills shortage is creating challenges in businesses across sectors, as talent searches are failing to retrieve candidates with the required skills or experience.

This is leaving many businesses in precarious situations, where their team is lacking the right skills. The longer vacancies remain open, the more growth is inhibited, and the more pressure is placed on existing employees to pick up the slack.

With contributing factors cited as fewer workers from overseas, more young people in further education, and a general lack of investment in upskilling and training opportunities, many businesses are looking to retirees and older generations to bring their years of experience back to work.  

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK labour market has seen 375,000 more 50-64 year olds taking early retirement, meaning that 27.6% of this age group are now economically inactive (neither in work nor seeking work) – up 2.4 percentage points since pre-pandemic levels.

However, since the cost of living crisis, figures from a Sept 2022 ONS survey reveal that two-fifths (39%) of those aged over 50 who left the workforce during the pandemic would consider returning to paid work in the future. 

This represents an opportunity for employers to fill skills gaps in their organisations, and buy time to upskill and train their younger or less experienced staff.

But how can employers attract older generations and gain the benefit of their skills and experience?


Also vital when attracting Gen Z employees, flexibility is also an important factor for older generations.

ONS figures show that 32% of those who would consider returning to work cited the most important factor when choosing a paid job would be flexible hours, while 12% valued being able to work from home.

Reasons for leaving the workforce in the over 50s include caring responsibilities and the desire for a change in lifestyle, meaning that flexibility, and support from employers is a vital factor.

Therefore, ensuring you’re offering flexible and remote working options is more likely to attract skilled, older employees.

Provide purpose

According to the same ONS survey, the majority of 50-64 year olds who have left work since the start of the pandemic are financially resilient, owning their homes outright and secure that their retirement provisions will meet their needs.

Therefore, while salary and bonuses are still very important, financial incentives cannot be wholly relied on to attract and retain older talent.

According to Age UK, retirement is a commanding factor in the development of anxiety and depression in older generations, and a sense of purpose can help to alleviate these issues.

Within employer branding materials and when approaching older candidates, it’s important to provide a sense of purpose, and to lay out the importance of the work your company does and how employees’ work directly contributes to that.

Invest in skills

Being older does not mean the desire to learn and upskill has gone. According to the ONS, 15% of 50-64 year olds who had retired since the pandemic and were considering returning to work would like to improve on their advanced IT skills, such as data science and programming.

Invest in skills in the older generations in the same way you would with employees just starting their careers.

Providing opportunities for employees to learn, develop, and feel pride in their growth and mastery of new skills is important for encouraging older generations back to work, not to mention in avoiding future skills shortages.

Offer good salary and bonus schemes

23% of 50-64 year olds who had left work since the pandemic said that good pay was a strong factor for returning to paid work.

With high levels of financial resilience within the demographic, it’s important that offers of returning to work are worth candidates’ while – after all, asking someone to swap free time and flexibility for the daily commute and office politics can be a tough sell. Enrich your offer to skilled and experienced over 50s with bonus schemes and perks that make the idea of getting back to the daily grind more attractive.

In addition, the cost of living crisis is squeezing most people’s budgets, including the over 50s – by offering an attractive package, retirees can be swayed by the thought of additional income.

Be representative in your employer branding

While focussing on youth, innovation, and dynamism can be an attractive brand for employers, to attract older generations it’s important to be inclusive and representative. Older workers are not going to opt for work if they feel they’re not going to fit in at the office, or feel that their needs are not accounted for.

According to the ONS survey, younger retirees aged 50-54 were more likely to have left their previous work because they did not feel supported by their employer. Therefore, demonstrating your understanding of the needs of older workers, and ensuring they are represented as valued team members is only going improve your chances of encouraging older generations back to work.

How can Reed Screening help?

Older workers have longer histories, and it’s important to ensure that your new hires’ backgrounds won’t put your business at risk. With over 60 years of experience in recruitment, and over 9 years’ experience as screening specialists, Reed Screening is ideally placed to advise your business on the best way to ensure that new hires are a boost to your company’s performance.