Capturing the value of an experienced workforce:
Longevity Leaders World Congress panel discussion

Longevity Leaders Conference panel discussion
June 29, 2020


In the light of the COVID 19-driven downturn, re-thinking retirement has become necessary for many.  With unprecedented numbers out of work in many countries, including those nearing retirement age, incomes have collapsed and pension savings diminished.  What is more, in many countries, formalised pension structures are limited, further driving the necessity to enable older workers to keep earning. Enabling experienced workers to be successful needs to be kick-started immediately.

 

Amidst this backdrop, Longevity Leaders’ World Congress was particularly timely in May. This global meeting has a mission of extending human health span, and delivering healthy ageing and financial wellness in the context of longevity.  Participants brought together multi-faceted views on celebrating and supporting a new world of increased longevity ─ sparking superb debate and thought leadership. In a reflection of the current times, the event was held completely virtually ─ showcasing a work model for the future where the workforce is more flexible, diverse and virtual. No format could have been more appropriate for a discussion of how to keep a new cohort of experienced workers engaged and productive!

 

Before we go any further, let’s clarify: when we talk about an experienced workforce, we are referring to the growing number of people aged 50+ who are remaining in the workforce able and willing to contribute to business success.  Average life expectancy at birth worldwide has risen quickly[1] — from only 56 in 1966 to 72 in 2016. Among high-income countries, the rise has been even steeper, with life expectancy currently at 80.  Experienced workers will be a huge part of what powers organisations of the future — making it imperative to better understand this segment’s specific contributions and costs, and the risks and opportunities these workers offer.

 

I had the fantastic opportunity to join a panel of speakers to discuss how companies can best capture the value of an experienced workforce.  Panellists represented perspectives from Mercer, the BBC, Phoenix Group and Unilever.  The criticality of enabling experienced workers to remain economically productive at this point in history – with the world rocked by what some are predicting to be the deepest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s[2] – jumped out of our discussion.

 

To support employees in changing their thinking about continuing work, we discussed a range of practical and innovative approaches:

 

  1. Thoughtful policies.  Policies to allow more flexible working ─ for example, to care for a sick dependant ─ exist but often are not crafted through the eyes of the generations that need them. Instead, they might be pitched only to parents caring for children. Organizations need to examine the limitations of policies and amend them to include a wider need, and make sure managers are adequately trained to support their employees’ use of flexible work options.

  2. Pushing forwards an age diversity agenda.  The benefits of diversity are now clear: inclusive and diverse businesses make better decisions from a broad range of perspectives, and better represent their customer bases and communities.  Age is a universal factor but only a few employers actively promote age diversity.  Some tools that the group found are working are financial education that starts early, and using data to identify what problems are real and what are urban myths, such as exposure to redundancy.

  3. Communication.  This is a key piece of the puzzle; we cannot make broad-brush assumptions about people’s wants and needs ─ data coupled with open lines of communication to connect with your people are critical.

  4. New work models.  New models on how to live, learn, work and earn differently are emerging and being trialled by innovative employers. An example is the ‘Midlife MOT’ or checkpoint to look at individuals’ needs across work – allowing you to work flexibly in the way you need, well-being and wealth – are individuals saving enough for retirement and healthcare?  Another model experiments with a new type of employment contract allowing you to be a permanent employee but with the option to work for other employers with your benefits protected, and a learning and training budget.  This essentially creates a hybrid between full-time and gig workers.

We face a workforce anxious to work at this time.  To navigate the different challenges faced, organizations should begin by understanding their workforce starting point. For example, are you dealing with multiple generations: the younger generation who are in pension auto-enrolment schemes in many countries, the older generation with good defined benefit pensions, and ─ crucially ─ the ‘lost middle’ who fell between?  These groups have completely different financial wellness and career shaping challenges.  Then, prioritize a few impactful solutions such as the ones discussed here that will drive both employees engaging, and create structures to help them be successful in remaining in the workforce

 

[1] Source: The World Bank, “Life Expectancy at Birth, Total (Years)”, at https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.IN.

[2] IMF, April 2020

Amy Richards
by Amy Richards

Partner, Mercer