Older workers will be 'key' to skills shortage, report finds

British employers are not planning to adapt their HR policies to accommodate a greying workforce despite an imminent skills shortage, a report by Talentsmoothie, in association with HR magazine, has found.

During the next decade, there will be 13.5 million job vacancies in the UK, but only 7 million school and college leavers - leaving a gap that immigration cannot plug.

'The Ageing Workforce - What's Your Strategy?' found 60% of baby boomers plan to extend their careers beyond the conventional retirement age, but 80% of employers were not planning any HR policy changes in response to this demographic challenge.

"Older workers are the main untapped source of hidden labour talent, but most organisations aren't equipped to recruit and retain them. This has to change given the predicted future skills shortages and the proven business benefits older workers offer," said Justine James, the report's author.

The report surveyed 850 baby boomers and 13 organisations about their views on retirement and how to manage an ageing workforce. It also features case studies from Barclays Wealth, BMW, Coursera, GSK, Sodexo and Vita Needle.

Only 45% of employers and 20% of employees openly talk about retirement, which highlights poor talent management of the advanced career stage.

"Employers are concerned about raising the retirement issue with employees over fears of age discrimination. There is a concern from employees that if they talk about retirement, employers might target them in the next round of redundancies," James said.

"We shouldn't leave discussions about retirement or extended career phases to six months before someone is due to leave the organisation. It should be a HR priority to put this on the table of senior management."

The arrival of generation z (born from 1996 onwards) will mean that for the first time organisations will have to manage five generations of workers. This will create cross-generational conflict, such as younger workers feeling deprived of career opportunities by older colleagues.

The report recommends companies view baby boomer employees as career enablers, rather than career blockers. It features a practical diagnostic tool to help companies assess what action they should take now to reduce the risk of a talent shortage in the future.

Copyright Press Association 2013