How HR managers and business leaders can reintegrate older workers post-pandemic

Paul Naha-Biswas

Paul Naha-Biswas

Paul Naha-Biswas, CEO and Founder of Sixley shared his thoughts on the best practices for bringing the older generation back to the workplace.

The UK’s COVID-19 jobs crisis has followed a somewhat U-shape, with older and younger workers disproportionately impacted by the economic fallout from the pandemic.

However, it appears that one of the groups impacted has been largely forgotten about.

In September last year, the Government launched its £2bn Kickstart Scheme, specifically designed to help youngsters aged between 16-24 who risked being ‘left behind’ by the ongoing crisis.

Contrastingly, little attention has been paid to the plight of older workers who have undeniably been disproportionately affected during the pandemic.

A report by The Resolution Foundation found that the fall in employment among workers over the age of 50 has been twice as large as the fall for those aged 25-49 – making it the biggest drop in employment for this age since the 1980s.

The drop in employment is cause for concern because redundancy and unemployment are age-related issues. The Resolution Foundation found that fewer than two in three people aged 50-64 have managed to find work within six months, and those that do are forced to accept lower pay. This differs from younger workers who often find it easier to find employment following a redundancy, be it through short- or long-term contracts.

The value of upskilling older workers

One way to improve the employment prospects for older workers is through training them in new digital skills that will be vital to business success post-pandemic.

The past 13-months has shown how much of our lives can be shifted online, and, as we emerge out of lockdown, many consumers will likely want to continue to solely interact with a business via a screen.

It is possible this could impact older workers who may not have the digital skills now deemed essential by employers. HR leaders and businesses can tackle this by offering their employees and new recruits digital skills training to futureproof their workforce. For example, training those who use Excel to use SQL or even Python?

Whilst this may sound like a short-term financial hit, business leaders should view it as an investment that will boost revenue in the long term. It is undeniable that new skills power new ways of working which, in turn, leads to new commercial opportunities.

It is important that employers and HR leaders remember that older workers bring plenty of skills, knowledge, and judiciousness from their experience. When this is combined with an up-to-date digital skillset, there’s little reason why they could not outperform a younger worker.

The importance of giving older workers the tools to rebuild their confidence

HR leaders need to give older workers the tools to rebuild their confidence by themselves, and networking will be a key part of this.

Unlike younger workers, older workers may find social networking platforms – such as LinkedIn and Clubhouse – difficult to use. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be an issue, but the pandemic has limited our social interaction and moved our networking online, meaning the progress of older workers has been hampered.

Being visible and getting noticed is a benefit of networking that’s essential in career progression. Regularly attending events boosts your profile, illustrates your commitment, and can help build your reputation as being a knowledgeable, reliable, and experienced member of your profession.

Therefore, not networking could do the opposite or undo the reputation you’ve built for yourself before the pandemic. As a result, older workers may be re-entering the labour market with far less confidence in their abilities.

With this in mind, HR professionals must organise internal and external events to help older workers rebuild their profile and, in turn, their confidence.

The focus is on business and HR leaders to prevent an unemployment crisis among the older population. Older workers bring many benefits to the wider company: they often bring experience to teams and less training is required due to them possessing a wide range of skills from prior roles. However, it’s important to remember that simply hiring an older worker isn’t enough. HR leaders must give these workers – many of whom have invaluable levels of experience and a broad range of skills – the tools to rebuild their confidence and relaunch their career post-pandemic.