SME guide on managing older workers

14 April 2015

A new guide on hiring and managing older employees has been published by Healthy Working Lives, part of NHS Health Scotland and is the first of its kind to specifically target smaller employers.

The guide, ‘Managing Health Ageing Workforces’ aims to provide advice to businesses on hiring and managing older employees and is the first of its kind to specifically target smaller employers. It was written based on discussions with SME business leaders in Scotland organised by Healthy Working Lives and in the South East of England organised by the Surrey Chamber of Commerce and South East of England Forum on Ageing.

The UK population is ageing at a rapid rate; one in six people in Britain are now over 65, with 8 million workers aged 50 and over. Of these, 5.2 million work for businesses with less than 250 employees. The guide therefore looks to support these smaller businesses in managing their older workers, seeing an ageing workforce as an opportunity rather than a challenge.

The guide has been written by Dr. Matt Flynn of the Centre for Research into the Older Workforce Ltd. and Kathleen Houston, Scottish Healthy Working Lives.

Dr Flynn commented:

"Older workers present a great opportunity for businesses in being able to harness their talent and expertise. In many firms but especially in smaller companies, more experienced workers play a critical role in passing on not just technical skills to the younger generation, but also the tacit organisational knowledge that businesses need to retain their competitive advantage.

Small businesses, for example, need employees who can be 'all-rounders', and jobseekers who are rich in experience are also likely to be multi-skilled. The problem small business leaders have is that they simply don't know where to find the experienced job seekers they want - this guide seeks to address that, as well as providing practical advice on how best to manage an older workforce.

"The contribution of older workers to the British economy is undeniable. We must ensure that as people stay in work for longer, their extended working lives are healthy, sustainable and mutually beneficial to both employees and employers."

Kathleen Houston added:

"In the coming years, many more people will continue working into sixties and seventies. It is vital for business owners and managers to be able to get the best from ageing workforces."