Webinar: Retain your talent by supporting older workers
Many employers are facing skills shortages and looking at new approaches to recruiting and retaining talent. Organisations are increasingly recognising the value of the knowledge and skills of older workers and the benefits that having mixed-age teams can bring.
Putting in place support mechanisms, such as having open discussions about people's careers in later life, and making suitable job adaptations can help to ensure that the opportunities presented by having people working for longer are maximised.
In this 60-minute webinar, Patrick Thomson (pictured top), senior programme manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, and Alistair McQueen (pictured bottom), head of savings and retirement at Aviva plc, explore what steps employers can take to encourage the retention of older workers.
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Bar Huberman: Good morning everyone and welcome to today's webinar, brought to you by XpertHR. Today we're looking at how you can address retention problems through supporting older workers. I'm Bar Huberman, principal employment law editor at XpertHR.
Before I introduce our speakers let's look at the agenda for today. First we're going to look at why work is important for those in later life and the changing demographics of our workforce. Then we'll explore the reasons why organisations are moving towards seeing older workers as talent. We'll then discuss what you can do to become an age-friendly employer to encourage the recruitment and retention of older workers. Then in the second half of the webinar we'll look at Aviva's experience of investing in older workers through its midlife MOT.
I'm thrilled to say that guiding us through this programme today is Patrick Thomson, senior programme manager at the Centre for Ageing Better. Patrick leads the centre's age-friendly employers' programme. As a former member of the Government's social research unit he commissioned and managed projects for the Department for Work and Pensions' Ageing Society Strategy, leading us to the evidence base for the removal of the default retirement age. Patrick previously managed wide-scale recruitment and workforce programmes for the London 2012 organising committee.
We're also very fortunate to be joined by Alistair McQueen, head of savings and retirement at Aviva PLC. Aviva is the UK's leading provider of private pensions, helping six million people fund their retirement, and Alistair is Aviva's lead spokesperson on all issues related to personal finances, savings and retirement.
We'd love you all to get involved in today's webinar and after we hear from our speakers we'll have a Q&A session to answer as many of your questions as possible. You can submit your questions through the chat pane on the left of your screen. We've had lots of great questions already, so thanks everyone for those. We'll get through as many as we can, but do please keep sending them through and if we aren't able to answer your question today it will help us to understand what guidance you need on XpertHR.
So now I'll hand over to Patrick Thomson from the Centre for Ageing Better. Patrick.
Patrick Thomson: Thank you very much, Bar, and thank you for XpertHR for hosting us as well, and thank you everyone for tuning in to what I hope will be a really interesting topic and one that's very important to all of us who work in terms of workforce planning, HR and other things, particularly on looking at the older workforce and what it means for all of us.
A little bit of background just on who we are as an organisation because it's not always immediately obvious, but we were set up four years ago as an independent charity. We're funded, and that's largely to go out and find the best available evidence of what works, and then also to test and pilot and evaluate things and then try and share best practice as well. And our focus and our core aim as an organisation is to help as many people as possible to have a good later life, and that's focusing on things around the homes and the houses that people live in, it's about having connected communities, and it's also about being in good health. And finally it's about being in good work as well, and that's the area that I focus on.
Good work matters in later life for a whole range of reasons, but our main focus is actually on supporting people in midlife, because actually it's those years in your forties, fifties and sixties that really matter just as much as working up to and beyond what we might think of as normal state pension age.
And good work matters in later life for a whole range of reasons. We've asked a lot of people through our research, both quantitative and qualitative, what makes for a good later life, and again and again the same things come back and it's about being in good health, it's about being in financial security, and it's about having social connections. And it's really important in terms of the way that people work and retire because work interrelates with all those things. So if you're healthier you're more able to work for longer. That can then help you be more financially secure by saying more into a pension. And also increasingly we talk to people and it's actually the social connections and other things around meaning and purpose that they get from work that they find really important. And it's about having choice, control and quality of work in your midlife right through to your later years as well that can have a really good and beneficial impact for your later life.
I mentioned some of the research we've done previously and actually a lot of it is about talking to people in work, but we also talk to people who are now retired as well. And some interesting findings in asking them what they look back on and what they most miss about work. So I've outlined there that work is really important, but actually when we ask people what it was they most miss about work, actually the top line there people might find interesting or surprising or perhaps not that surprising, but actually a lot of people are saying they don't miss anything about work. And actually because people go on into retirement and they do a lot of things that still look like work but it's often unpaid, and it's things like caring, it's supporting family members, it's a whole range of other things where people have control over what they might be doing. And a lot of people are having a very happy retirement and it's important to remember that, that work is important if it's a good quality work, but then people still do like to have choice in controlling their later years as well.
Moving down some of those things that people say they miss about work, it's actually really surprising to me and interesting that people say they miss the social interaction. We find this again and again, that people say that actually the money isn't really important in work, but actually it's the things that they get out of work beyond money as well that can be very important.
So that's a little bit of framing about how people work in retiring towards later life. Another important thing to remember is the world of work is changing and so is the world of retirement as well, and we've now moved away from what we thought of in the past as being a cliff-edge retirement. And actually, a really interesting figure showing one in four people in some ways un-retire. So that is, people who have declared themselves retired move back into some form of paid work. And a lot of that is happening within the first five years of retirement. But it's just to make the point that we are working differently, we're retiring differently. I think an important thing to remember for anyone working now is the way they work and they way they retire will be very different from their parents and grandparents. Part of that is because of demographic changes but it's also because of big social and economic changes that are happening across the workforce, and employers need to wake up and respond to that and think how they can better support and better serve some of these older workers in their employment.
I've mentioned a bit there about how the world of work is changing. We are also increasingly working for longer as well. As the population ages we have more people in older age groups and more of those people are in work as well. We now have well over 10 million people over the age of 50 in work in the UK, and those employment rates are rising, alongside other age groups as well.
But the stark thing - and there's a question mark at the end of that one - is that people are dropping out of work as well, for a range of reasons. From all the evidence that we've gathered, there are a range of things that start to affect people in midlife. So from midlife you're more likely to be a carer, and we know that that peaks around about your mid-fifties, and often that's about being a carer for perhaps an older parent, a partner, a younger dependent as well, or sometimes multiple people, and we hear a lot about sandwich carers and that affecting people's ability to stay in work.
People are also more likely to have health conditions, so 44% of people aged between 50 and state pension age have at least one long-term condition. That doesn't always affect their ability to work but without proper support from an employer it can lead to early exit against the person's will.
Interesting, people are saying at all ages that they feel insecure at work and this does really actually start to increase as well in those years in your fifties and sixties as well, which is perhaps a different angle from what we sometimes see in media reports, particularly about the impact of things like the economic downturn on younger workers, people entering their working life. It has absolutely affected them but actually there has been a lot of impacts and effects on people in mid- and later life as well.
The older you are, unfortunately you are also more likely to face redundancy or be in a sector that is impacted by redundancy, and due to the nature of being in work for longer you're more likely to be stuck or stay stuck in low pay. So the number of people who have been stuck in low pay for a number of years is higher amongst older workers as well.
You're also less likely to be offered or ask for training, or be promoted or progress at work, or if you do fall out of work be able to enter work if you leave it. And it's not just to paint too gloomy a picture, because many, many people are really thriving at work. If you think of around one in three workers in the UK are over the age of 50, many of them are doing absolutely fantastic, in senior positions, doing really well, getting a lot out of fulfilling work. But just to think about some of the issues that can arise more as you age at work.
And the impact of that really, if you look at this chart here, the purple chart is showing across the bottom there that's age groups, individual years of age. And if you look at age 50, that is actually the peak employment rate for people in the UK. Well over 80% of people, so near enough full employment. But it's actually quite stark because it begins to drop off and it's actually well before state pension age that people start to leave the UK workforce. So actually from your mid-fifties onwards there is quite a sharp decline in the number of people in work. Sometimes that's through positive choices or people taking early retirement because they choose to do so. So if you look at those arrows as the main drivers for people leaving before state pension age, the first one is retirement. Often that's through choice and it's a positive thing but sometimes people state themselves as being retired but actually, when they look at their finances, when they look at things for the future, they don't actually have quite enough to fund their later lives as well, so that isn't always through choice.
The second biggest reason for exit is around health, and often that is things outside someone's control that causes them to leave the workplace involuntarily without proper support from their employer. We see particularly arising things around musculo-skeletal conditions, so joints and muscle reasons resulting in people leaving the workplace. But actually with small adjustments you can really support people to be in work for longer.
I've already mentioned caring. That is the third biggest factor in reasons for people leaving work. But actually, often with a bit of support, some reasonable adjustments, some changes in the workplace, you can hold onto and support your working carers for longer and actually help them to really thrive in the workplace.
And then finally there are other involuntary reasons for leaving, so things around redundancy, things around contracts coming to an end or a job ending, and often those lead to people leaving and over a certain age very often there are barriers to people getting back in. So too often accidentally it's someone's last job.
And we've got the dotted line there showing state pension age, and I suppose just to show that people are leaving well before state pension age, and if you think that dotted line is going to be moving to the right over the next few years as the state pension age rises to 66 as we're going up to now, and then in the next decade or so up to 67 and then beyond that to 68 as well. So I suppose it's just thinking that we do need a change in concept about what we think about our reasons for working for longer, our aspirations and motivations for it, and we need employers to help that, to support people to be in good work for longer.
So why, apart from those things, is it important for employers to take up this agenda? And we do see many leading employers are and I'm really looking forward to hearing from Aviva, who really are sort of one of the great case studies for how to support an older workforce. But more employers are getting a handle on this and doing things on it. But for me there's a range of reasons. There are some around diversity and inclusion. All these things about you have a more diverse workforce that better represents your clients, the people you serve. That's a good reason. I mean, being protected from the legislation and the risk of an employment tribunal, age just like any other protected characteristic is protected in that way. There is more that employers can be doing there.
I think there is one really stark and important reason why employers need to do something, which is this is your workforce. I've just run some numbers looking at the increases in the number of workers over the last decade or so and we hear a lot every day about new record-breaking employment rates and we are currently at peak employment and we have record numbers of people in work. But if you break that down by age, actually over the last 10 years we've seen 150,000 more workers under the age of 50 in the UK. So it might sound like not a lot, but actually that is completely dwarfed by the number of workers over the age of 50. So we've got 2.25 million more workers over the age of 50 in the UK over the last 10 years.
So I suppose when an employer is thinking about where their future recruits are coming from, who they need to hold on in their current workplace, they really need to be thinking about their older workers as being a key part of that. And those changes are really in part about the ageing of the population as a whole. We have more people in mid- and later life in the UK. We've also got higher employment rates for those people in their fifties and sixties. Even though we've seen that drop-off the overall employment rates are going up as well. And we're also seeing more and more people choosing and being able to work up to and beyond state pension age as well. So just to think that the workforce of the future is increasingly going to look like an older one.
And those trends are set to continue. So you look at the figures on the right there - and apologies if they're a little bit small - but over the next few years to 2025 we're expecting 300,000 fewer workers under the age of 30 in the UK, a million more workers over the age of 50. So those trends are carrying on. And if you think of record job vacancies and numbers in work, both at record highs, employers are increasingly going to be needing to look and support their older workers as well.
There is a lot of value to employers. So I've set out some of the challenges that there are, particularly for individuals thinking about working for longer, but actually we've looked across the evidence base and we've done a series of research reports looking at this and also worked with employers as well, and the evidence is really clear that there is very little age difference in terms of performances between younger and older workers. There are a few myths to bust as well because actually there is a perception out there that older workers don't want to learn new skills, and from looking at survey data and other qualitative data as well, absolutely older workers do want to learn new skills, it's just not always in the way that it's offered currently.
Older workers can be better at negotiating and solving interpersonal problems, and a lot of the research we've done with employers shows that they really value some of those life skills and experiences that people have in the workplace. And also in terms of engagements rates and loyalty, older workers are more likely to work with an employer for longer as well, and that's something that in increasingly changing workforce structures can be very valuable to employers.
And across other parts of the business age diversity presents huge opportunities. I mentioned before about, just like any other protected characteristic, having a more diverse age profile can be really beneficial. You get more points of view, you have more of a mixing of ideas and skills and experiences, and actually it can better match the profile and improve services as well. So whether you're in the private sector about having better products to sell or services to give out, or if you're in the public sector as well about better representing the people you serve, a better age profile and a smoother age profile across the range can be hugely beneficial as well.
Just one example. I was about to talk at another event to a range of business people in the East Midlands and I was just about to think how to talk about how to engage and branch out your brand to other people and to people of all ages, and just as I was about to go into the session a lorry pulled up in front of me, and it really struck me that this was quite a rare example of a brand that someone has put out there for their business to really shape and help share the benefits of having an older workforce. So this is from a drinks distributor and it just struck me that it's something you see all too rarely probably, because you do see a lot of things around younger people being highlighted in terms of talent programmes and outreach, but this one was about a drinks company and it's not just a drinks delivery, it's a truckload of expertise. So perhaps something we see all too rarely but actually it can be very beneficial to businesses.
In terms of how that impacts on older workers' experiences there's a range of things in terms of recruitment. So older workers are turned off from applying for job adverts. They feel they're aimed at younger people. Almost a third feel they've been turned down for a job because of their age. Nearly one in five have considered hiding their age when applying for a job.
In terms of the management of how people are managed at work, a lot of this comes through from line manager training and how line managers interact with individuals, but one in four people feel they can't talk openly with their manager about their future career plans, and only one in five about their retirement plans. Really important, particularly in a post-default retirement age world, whereas before employers used the default retirement age often as a workforce planning tool and would effectively retire people often against their will, now we're in a new world where people and employers feel that they can't talk openly about age or retirement, but actually you can have really healthy conversations about it.
There are wider things about value, respect and equal opportunities at work. A lot of these are - and I suppose it's highlighted in some of our research - about jokes or comments that are made about age that would not be made about any other protected characteristic. If you think of birthday cards, we get a lot that get put around our office as well but if you think about jokes about age that are on the front of a birthday card that you wouldn't dream about making about race or gender or disability, there is still an acceptance there about how people think about age, and there is a lot actually of self-internalised ageism as well. So some of these things that we can overcome in the workplace.
So having said all that, we've set out some of the problems but there are real solutions to this and actually real positive business reasons for supporting your older workforce. We've set out an employer guide with five key ways that employers can support their older workforce, with case studies and examples. I'll run through them quickly but we'll also circulate the guidance at the end.
So the first one is about being flexible. So flexible working is good for people of all ages but can become really important for older workers as well, and that's about hiring flexibly, it's about having a wide range of flexible working options available, its about thinking about particularly working carers, for instance, who might need some adjustments to work that aren't just about the time you're in and out the office but also thinking about, for instance, a frontline member of staff in some employee settings, they're not allowed a mobile phone on them. But actually, if you're a working carer, that kind of flexible adjustment can be really valuable. And then again it's about having managers who know how that flexible working works.
It's about having positive outreach, so we saw the positive example from that drinks company there, but also about thinking about this is a real talent pool that you go out and support and find the best available talent, particularly in quite a tight labour market, that thinking about return and re-entry programmes as well, but also thinking about the recruitment process as well and thinking, "Where are your biases?" I think many recruiters are very good at thinking in terms of overcoming gender bias and race bias, but also very few are thinking about age as well, and we've got some upcoming projects and guidance which can help support that.
Thirdly it's about supporting people with health conditions, and that is good for people of all ages. But there is something there particularly about relatively small adjustments that can help people stay in work for longer, whether that's a small adjustment for the physical environment or supporting people with a mental health condition as well. There are slight differences in terms of the prevalence of certain health conditions with age, but within our guidance as well is about having those small adjustments and also having employees understand how they can access them and they feel open about disclosing a health condition.
It's about encouraging career development at all ages and we're going to hear much more from Aviva about their fantastic work that they've been doing in that area as well, particularly supporting people in midlife to take stock and think about their future working lives. And it's about all too often career development and training is not offered to older workers in the same way as it is to younger workers. Whether that's consciously or not, some of the outreach things that people have for their development programmes are much more aimed at younger workers and older workers are put off from applying for them. And then finally it's about having an age-positive culture, it's about having this from the top down, so having really significant leadership stating that they are supporting their older workers, but then also bottom-up as well so that line managers and individual employees know what they can do and can speak openly and positively about age in the workplace.
It's about encouraging interaction and having staff networks as well, and whether that's on a specific issue that is more likely to affect older workers, such as a carers' network, or one that is focused on age diversity itself, both of them can be really positive.
So to summarise really, I suppose it's just to say that the UK workforce is changing. We're living longer and working for longer as well. Increasingly as we've got this real benefit of longer working lives on average, we need to make the most of that and for businesses it's thinking about how you can better support this increasingly important part of your workforce. But all of that is focused on job quality and thinking throughout the process of job design how you can better support people make adjustments and adaptations at work, support people with health conditions and caring responsibilities, and recognising that older workers actually are a real benefit for the workforce as a whole.
So there we've just got a quick summary of our five actions to be an age-friendly employer. It's about being flexible, it's about hiring age positively, ensuring health conditions are supported, it's about encouraging career development at all ages, and creating an age-positive culture. We've got many more examples and guidelines within our guidance, as well as case studies of what large employers have done to support people at work.
So thank you very much. That's it from me but please do look at our guidance there. We can also send the link around. And do keep in touch with the Centre as well, with any thoughts or suggestions that you might have for working with us as well. But thank you very much, Bar, and back over to you now.
Bar Huberman: Thank you very much, Patrick. Some really interesting facts and figures there. Surprising ones as well, I think, and I really like your five steps to becoming an age-friendly employer. So I think that's going to give people some really practical take-aways and we can explore a bit more of that in the Q&A at the end.
And again you mentioned employers needing practical examples of how it might have changed, so we're going to listen to Aviva's experience shortly. But before we do, we've got a poll for you all to answer. So how do you think your organisation will respond to the challenge of a longer working life in the coming five years? So to vote just click on the button that's most relevant to you. So will you invest more time and resources, invest the same time and resources as today, or invest less time and fewer resources?
Most of you have voted. And I can see that 50.3% of you have said that you think your organisation will invest more time and resources, which is good news, in response to the challenge of a longer working life. Patrick, can I ask you for your thoughts on that result?
Patrick Thomson: Yes, yeah, absolutely. In some ways you sort of know what the right answer is to click on, particularly if you've tuned into this webinar itself. And I think it's not too discouraging to think that the people who think that they won't invest any more, keep it the same or even less, because actually a lot of these changes, they don't require any more resources in terms of money or financial support. Sometimes they might need more time as well, but actually I think we shouldn't think of this as being an extra we're asking employers to do. Sometimes it's very small adjustments or it's just different ways of working that don't require any more funding or anything like that, but actually it's just about doing things differently and thinking very carefully about what your older workforce might want or need. So I suppose it doesn't always need more resources.
Bar Huberman: Absolutely. That's encouraging. And Alistair, do you have anything to add to that?
Alistair McQueen: Thanks, Bar. Aviva, I would say, is solidly, solidly in the green box. The one that's really fascinating me is the 2.8% that believe they'd invest less time and resources. I'm about to talk through what Aviva's doing. I'll start by saying we're doing this, yes, for an altruistic reason. We want to support our employees, but heavily motivated by a commercial motivation as well. We believe this is a competitive advantage for us. So I'd be really interested to hear from the 2.8% as to what is it that's driving them to think they will be investing less time and resources in this area.
Bar Huberman: Yeah, absolutely. Okay, so we're now going to take a deeper dive into a great example of engaging older workers. Alistair, for that, over to you please.
Alistair McQueen: Okay. Thank you Bar and thank you Patrick. So I work for Aviva, a large insurance company, and this is an area of supporting and investing in older workers that we have grasped with great enthusiasm over recent times, and I'm delighted to be able to share with you today what it is that we've been doing, why we've been doing it, and to hear any feedback, suggestions or questions from yourselves. We're still learning and we're keen to learn, and that's one of the reasons we're keen to engage in this debate today.
Before getting into this presentation I'll start by saying we sit back and observe the culture and the media around us, and there's a huge amount of media enthusiasm around the millennials, the hipsters in society that you'll hear about, the snowflakes, and all that kind of media hype around the younger end of society. I would argue and passionately believe that it's this older demographic where there's going to be some fascinating developments in the years to come, but it's the hugely growing population which is where much of the wealth in the UK lies. They're experiencing unprecedented life expectancy and unprecedented healthy life expectancy, and also they've got significant political power. So it's a really fascinating demographic and a fascinating area, and we believe there's huge work to be done in this area.
A statistic that Aviva brings to the table about the changing nature of society is this year happens to be the 100th anniversary of the British monarchy sending telegrams to people on their 100th birthday. 100 years ago King George V said, "Let's recognise this population." He sent his people away and they came back with their 24 names and off went the 24 telegrams. I think it was 17 women and 7 men. Last year the Queen will have sent nearly 10,000 telegrams to people celebrating their 100th birthday. So a huge transformation in British society over the last 100 years, and we as employers have to respond to that.
And I think finally before getting into my presentation I think there's a mindset shift. I recognise that this happens to be the 52nd anniversary this year of the Beatles writing their song When I'm Sixty-Four. Now that was written at a time when 64 was very much in the sunset of your life. That's just no longer the case. At 64 people will hopefully have a good another 20-odd years left of their lives to thrive, and we as employers need to respond to that. So there are huge amounts of exciting stuff going on in this area.
So what I'd like to touch on is five reasons why Aviva is believing it should be supporting older workers, five insights into our own older workers in Aviva. I then want to touch on what we're doing, and one thing I'll showcase is our work on the Midlife MOT - five facts about that and five lessons that we have learnt about that. We've been working on this area, I'd say, internally with some enthusiasm now for more than two years, so we've got two years of experience but we do not claim to have all the answers and therefore are keen to listen and keen to learn.
Just to introduce Aviva, large insurance company in the UK, 15,000 employees in the UK, and one of the statistics we quote is we have employees of five generations working for Aviva. By that we mean we have people from what's termed "The Silent Generation", "The Baby Boomers", "Generation X", "The Millennials" and right through to "Generation Z". And we're very keen to represent all of those people and embrace all of those people. Our youngest employee in Aviva is 16, our oldest is 75, and all of them have a strong home inside Aviva. We want to make sure that we're providing them with that strong home.
This is the way our employee base is split: 15,000 in the UK, 15,000 outside the UK. And in the UK we've got a third/third/third split, one third under the age of 30, one third between 30 and 45, and one third over 45. And it's that 45+ demographic that we're really interested in and keen to support. One of the reasons we're keen to support it is that it is our fastest growing age demographic. We have about 500 employees entering that age demographic every year, and we just need to make sure that we as an employer are ready to meet their needs, and potentially we have been slow to respond to the needs of that fast-growing demographic.
As Patrick mentioned, Aviva's demographic split is kind of representative of the UK as a whole. The UK is now pretty much one third/one third/one third like that as well. And again a massive change. 20 years ago there was about one in five of our workforce in the UK that was over the age of 50; today it's one in three. And the UK needs to respond to that changing demographic.
So why did Aviva decide that this was a demographic that we really did need to respond to and listen to and support? The five reasons we would say are: 1) First of all we are a commercial organisation. We have to respond to our customer base. In the UK we have 15 million customers. Ten million of them - that's two in three, 10 million of our 15 million - are over the age of 45, and therefore if we want to be a customer-focused organisation, which we claim we do, we have to be able to understand their needs and reflect that. So our external audience was driving our internal behaviour.
The second thing is there's a recognition that given our longer life expectancy the UK has to do something to help us fulfil our life later on in retirement, and there are really only three levers the UK can pull. We can save more as individuals for later life or we can work longer. If we don't want to do either of those two, the sad reality is we have to accept that we will be retiring poorer. That's just the way the demographics arithmetic works.
Aviva has been very much at the heart of helping the UK save more. In the UK now it is the law - many of you will be aware of this - that every employer must provide a workplace pension. Six years ago only one in 10 employers did. Now it's 10 in 10, which is a huge transformation. Aviva's been at the heart of that, providing many workplace pensions across the UK. So we felt we had ticked the "save more" box. We did not believe we had yet ticked enough of the "work longer" box to help the UK rise to its ageing society challenges and opportunities.
And as Patrick mentioned, the UK needs to do much more work at helping people work longer. There is this collapse of participation once people reach the age of 50. At 50, eight or nine out of 10 of us are in work. By the time we reach our state pension age it's less than one in two. A huge, in our mind, waste of talent, skill, potential and experience that the UK can no longer afford.
The other interesting statistic we observe is that a man is exiting the workforce today at a younger age than he did back in the 1950s, despite the transformation of our life expectancy. So the UK is not yet living up to its challenge of helping its people work longer.
The third reason was we do believe in promoting wellbeing. It's a phrase that receives a lot of airtime, but Aviva is passionate in supporting wellbeing. And when we look at the Government's own statistics, they look at wellbeing by age. And I'm sad to report there's a trough in terms of wellbeing when it comes to this demographic between 45 and 60. It is, according to government figures, the least happy age group in society and also the most stressed age group in society. It's a tough place to be, in that 45 to 60 demographic, potentially due to the fact this is a sandwich generation caring for older and younger members of its family. But regardless, Aviva believes that by investing in our people they're more equipped to help our customers and therefore we want to respond to that, and the evidence is telling us it's a demographic that needs support and we wanted to help them.
I'm fortunate that I have a fantastic sponsor. This photograph on the screen is our UK Chief Executive, a man called Andy Briggs. He was asked by the Government, given our interest in this area, he was asked by the Government to be an independent business champion for older workers. His job in this role is to encourage his peers and other business leaders across the UK to respond to the challenges of an ageing society and older workers, and clearly it's a lot easier for him to encourage his peers to act if he is demonstrating action himself. He's putting money where his mouth is and he's leading by example. So yes, we understand having senior sponsorship is important. We're very fortunate in Aviva we have somebody that didn't need much convincing that this was a good thing to do.
And finally, we are running a business. We are not running a charity. And therefore we have to make sure we're mitigating business risks. And it's hard to do any talk at the moment without touching on the subject of Brexit. Before mentioning any more I'll stress that Aviva is passionately politically neutral. We choose not to engage in either side of this debate. However, we look at the statistics, and what we recognise is that in the next decade there are about seven million young people scheduled to enter the employment market in the UK, and at current rates give or take 10 million scheduled to leave the workplace in the UK. Now you don't have to be a mathematical genius to recognise that there's a three million workers shortfall in the UK.
The UK has typically responded to this through the use of immigration in many part. If - and I recognise it's a big if - Brexit is to result in a reduction of immigration, the UK will have to look to its domestic workforce to support itself and make sure it thrives as an economy in the years to come. There are two ways it can do that. It can either produce more babies, and that is a longer-term challenge for anyone. Or we can retain and hug closer our older workers and avoid this huge waste of talent from the age of 50. And therefore from a commercial reason and to mitigate business risk of a lack of access to talent, Aviva wants to hug its older workers more closely.
So that was the reasons why we felt this was the right thing for us to do. But before we went off and did anything we wanted to listen to the mindset of our own older workers in the organisation, and here are five insights that we had. First of all, when we asked this population, first of all we thought, "This is a good news story." Two in three do not feel that age is a barrier to their career. But then we paused and thought, "Wait a minute - one in three do." And when you've got 5,000 and a fast-growing 5,000, to have one in three of those people thinking that age is a barrier to career opportunity and development, that was not a good place for us to be. We had to respond to this.
Secondly, and it wasn't written down anywhere, but Aviva had developed a culture where career development was perceived to stop when somebody got to the age of 50. It was seen as being something for younger people. There was anecdotal evidence of people having end-of-year reviews where the manager would say, "This won't take long, will it?" And that was just not the culture that we wanted to have in the organisation. We wanted to change this mindset and to change this culture.
We also recognised the huge value of this population. There are 5,000 employees in the 45+ demographic in Aviva. It's a very loyal workforce. The average length of service they have with Aviva is 20 years. We didn't realise this until we listed and looked at the data. 5,000 people averaging 20 years of experience with Aviva, that's 100,000 years of corporate memory, corporate knowledge, a population that knows how to get things done in a relatively large and complex organisation. So if we want to thrive in the future we really needed to retain this valuable skill base inside the organisation.
It was brought to life by anecdotes where, for example, in some of our IT units we had systems where we literally had maybe three people still in the organisation who understood how these old systems worked. All three of them were entering their fifties. If we didn't have those three we would struggle to maintain some of these systems. So this is a population with experience that we had to hold onto.
We also recognised that, for whatever reason, the over-fifties were currently leaving Aviva at a faster rate than the under-fifties, by about 50% faster, was the attrition rate of the over-fifties compared to the under-fifties. So for whatever reason, this great population with huge experience was slipping through our fingers and we had to respond to that, looking again at the data. Data always works very well when you're trying to put a business case towards senior management.
And the other final insight I got was great caution in the use of language in this area. We initially talked about "Aviva's support for older workers". I've used it in this slide deck. I would take great caution in using the word "old" when I'm talking now to people inside Aviva. What I very quickly learnt, based on some very vocal feedback, is that nobody wants to think of themselves as being old. I think it might have been Ipsos MORI did some research recently and asked the UK, "When are we young and when are we old?" And I'll break it to you now: we in the UK no longer think we're young after the age of about 30. That's where youth ages, according to the UK's mindset. And as a country as a whole, we believe "old" is 70 and beyond. However, when you ask a 70-year old, "When is old?" they will tell you it's 80. And when you ask an 80-year old, "When is old?" they'll tell you it's 85. Nobody believes they're old. So in terms of engaging with this population, use of language is a very delicate issue and we don't want to alienate people by labelling them as old.
So turning onto what Aviva has done, we thought, "There's a problem here. We've got great value in this employee workforce. However, they're feeling alienated. They're not feeling loved. They feel their career is behind them. And if we don't hug them closer we're going to lose a massive skillset and actually are going to struggle to retain it and refill it in the future." So we wanted to hug this population closer.
And so we created a system and a scheme we call Aviva's Midlife MOT. I would simplify it as saying it's like Aviva sending a love bomb to this population. We want them to hear that Aviva values them, Aviva needs them and Aviva has a future for them, and therefore we want to retain them. And that's been the symbolic motivation behind Aviva's introduction of a Midlife MOT for this demographic.
So five facts about it. First of all we can't claim credit for the concept. It came from this man on the screen. This man is John Cridland. He was asked in 2017 to review the state pension age in the UK, and his conclusions were that it had to rise faster. It's rising, as we know, towards 68. It'll probably reach towards 70 in the not-to-distant future. But he said that agreeing the state pension age is the easy bit. That's mathematical calculations arguably, looking at demographic trends. He said the more important bit is that if we're going to ask people to wait longer for their state pension, employers have a duty to support people maintaining their careers through that longer working life, and he didn't believe that the UK was doing enough. And he said, "We need something like a midlife MOT." Now he didn't put much flesh on the bones but he said, "As an intervention to help people in midlife prepare themselves for a longer working life," and Aviva thought, "There is something in this - let's try and bring it to life."
So last year in 2018 we took our Midlife MOT and we had a pilot. As you can see there, build-test-learn-build-test-learn. We took it to our Norwich location. It's by age our oldest population. We have about 5,000 people in Norwich, 2,000 I think in that older age demographic and therefore it was a good place for us to pilot. Culturally we had to make sure that people realised, "This is not a pre-retirement workshop." People came along quite often to the workshop thinking, "This is about how I can now leave the organisation smoothly." We really had to send the message, "This is not about pre-retirement and exiting - that would be counterproductive. This is about hugging closer and actually this is an anti-retirement course. This is how you can retain and maintain your life and your career with Aviva." So again we learnt very quickly that the perception was, "This is a pre-retirement course." We have to educate people, "This is an anti-retirement course."
So what is it? There's obviously a lot of detail behind the scenes but just a couple of slides here. We felt that as a financial services organisation we could easily talk to this population about how to manage their money as they progress through midlife and beyond, but in reality we thought people's lives are more complex and richer than that, so we've taken three Ws to our population and we run a series of seminars backed up by online support, helping them manage their wealth, their work and their wellbeing through midlife and beyond. It's a series of face-to-face seminars so that this population understand how Aviva is very keen to support you through this process. And we called it the Midlife MOT.
A difficult slide to see, but as I say, there are three elements to it. There are really 12 building blocks to our Midlife MOT - wealth, work and wellbeing. Now from the colour scheme alone I think that's maybe the message to take from this slide. You'll see there's a bias towards the yellow, the Work contents. This is pushing the message, "This is not pre-retirement, this is not about how to live a healthier life in retirement. This is about how to maintain your working life." And it's showcasing tools like apprenticeship programmes, training programmes, flexible working, caring support for people at that age demographic, telling them, this is how Aviva wants to help you navigate your way through midlife and beyond.
It's run both face-to-face and online. What we very quickly learnt was it wasn't so much the teacher at the front talking to the pupils in the classroom that was of benefit. It was pupils sharing with pupils in the room that was really, really powerful. "Oh, you think that as well? Oh, I'm like you. I don't understand this either." Or, "I'm thinking of doing that." Or, "Did you hear about this person that's done this?" That dialogue in the room was hugely powerful and that's why we continue to want to bring people into the room to share their experiences, educate each other while Aviva is educating them as well, as I say, backed up by online resources so that people either who are not in the room or after being in the room can walk away and understand how they can manage their midlife and beyond.
And at the end of every element, whether it be Wealth, Work or Wellbeing, we have a one-to-one service, so we can introduce them to a financial advisor around their wealth, we can speak to one of our wellbeing people to talk about Aviva's support for wellbeing. And we actually partnered with the National Careers Service, a government agency who are very keen to come into this area and offered free - as they do for anybody - free one-to-one services to help people consider their career. So we wanted to make sure it wasn't just a sheep dip, once and done - they could have a follow-up one-to-one chat.
And it was part of a wider culture change. Aviva's a passionate believer in diversity and inclusion. The visual on the right is our logo for our work on diversity and inclusion. I've circled the Aviva Generations community, which focuses on age, trying to ensure that age is no barrier to opportunity in Aviva. But we also focus on race, ethnic backgrounds, gender, LGBT, those with ability and disability issues to manage, and caring responsibilities as well. But very much age is one of the diversity and inclusion lenses that we promote inside Aviva to send this message that age must be no barrier to opportunity, whether you're 16 or 75.
The five lessons that we've learnt, to close. First of all we launched it without an understanding of what the demand would be. We had a 94% take-up rate of our pilot. 94%. Huge demand for this kind of support, an untapped demand, people saying, "Thank goodness somebody's coming along to help me manage this. I realise this challenge is coming. I can now go somewhere to get some guidance and some support."
We measured people's views before, during and after, and our metric of confidence showed a significant uptick, in that people felt more confidence about managing their future and more aware of where they can turn to for more support. So giving people that confidence, challenging that one in three people who fear that they don't have a future with Aviva, challenging and supporting that population, so that was good.
From Aviva's perspective it was fantastic that their appreciation of us as an employer went up as a result. We're trying to hug this population closer. They have 100,000 years of corporate memory and experience that's leaving us at a faster rate than we want them to. This is a great result for Midlife MOT.
We asked them, "At what age should this intervention begin?" Now the concept of how you manage your wealth, your work and your wellbeing is something that is relevant to all ages in the organisation, but people felt that the type of subject matter that we were looking for is relevant mostly from the age of 45. Leaving it much later would be too late, and throwing some of this information at our employees before that might be too early. So we're introducing it from the age of 45.
And finally, building the business case was relatively easy. Yes, there's a cost to Aviva in introducing a Midlife MOT. Everything comes at a cost, human cost etc. But we have convinced ourselves from the strong evidence that if we can just reduce the attrition rate by 1% as a result of this it will easily pay for the cost incurred. So there was a business case behind it, very much positively supported by having a great sponsor at the top who believed that this is a great way forward.
So as a result of that, Aviva in October 2018 said, "Do you know what? It's not just for our pilot population. We're going to take it to all of our employees in the UK." So I'm delighted to say that in 2019 all 5,000 of our employees ages 45+ will be invited to take part in an annual Midlife MOT. We'll continue to listen and continue to learn and refine it as we go forward, but we're also conscious that Aviva is just one of the one million employers in the UK, and many employers, as your earlier survey showed, will be facing a similar challenge, and so we're very keen to share our content and we're also having conversations with the Government, the Department for Work and Pensions, to say, "How can this concept be taken beyond the walls of just one organisation? What other organisations are doing something similar? And let's create a motivation for other employers to follow suit." Yes, good for their employees, but also good for the competitiveness and commercial value for those organisations themselves.
And so my closing slide is we're very excited about this area. We believe there's a huge amount of work to be done. I've showcased our Midlife MOT, amongst various things that we're doing as an employer. Evidence tells us that people like it, it's a win for our people. We believe it's also a win for Aviva. If we can retain this population and hug them closer it will put us in a great position facing any kind of employment risks and challenges we have in the future. And it's also a good think for UK PLC. We cannot afford to have that waste of talent, skill and potential from the age of 50 anymore, and we must reach out and hug them closer and we believe that the Midlife MOT is a way of doing that.
So very keen to share, listen and learn from anybody, but Bar, that is the end of my little tour.
Bar Huberman: Thank you so much, Alistair. Really great to hear how you're doing something that's of real practical value for your people but also with a clear benefit to the business too.
So why don't we just stay on the Midlife MOT for a minute? We've had lots of questions in just now from people around that. And you mentioned about for Aviva building the business case was quite easy but a few people have asked questions around getting management buy-in for different strategies for retaining older workers. So Natalie has sent in a question and a few other people as well. Have you got any tips?
Alistair McQueen: Well I think we, when we started this work, had a similar mindset and then we entered this conversation thinking, "This is something that the organisation should do if we want to be a "good employer". This is something a good employer should do, help its older workers in a slightly paternalistic, altruistic mindset." But when we looked, first of all we went to the statistics and I think the three statistics that I thought really won our business case was, "How many people do we have in this demographic?", what percentage of our organisation, and we recognised it was a third and it was fast-growing. The second statistic was, "What kind of tenure do they have with Aviva?" and we recognised it was 20 years on average. So that's how we got to this 100,000 years of experience. That was a pausing moment for our management. And third, they're leaving the organisation at a faster rate than the younger demographic. And it was when we shifted the mindset management from, "This is altruism, this is a nice thing to do," to, "This is a need-to-do for the future wellbeing of our organisation," that was a light-bulb moment for us. So I think three statistics that I would suggest people look at is what percentage of your workforce is in this demographic, how many years do they have on average in tenure, and if you can, at what rate they're leaving the organisation, and you might surprise yourself and maybe surprise your management to say, "Do you know what? We need to do something here. Not because it's the nice thing to do but we need to do it given demographic pressures."
Bar Huberman: Thank you. That's an interesting answer. Patrick, one for you. Margaret has asked - and actually quite a few people have asked similar questions again - how do you keep older workers motivated to continue with professional development? I know you said a lot of them do want to, but clearly some employers are experiencing the fact that actually not all of them want to climb the career ladder. So how do you keep them motivated in this space?
Patrick Thomson: It's a good question because historically in the workplace we've thought of it being a fairly linear thing where you develop at earlier stages of your career, you then peak and then you sustain that later on. But I think the way we're living now, it is very different, and people are coming in and out of the workforce at different ages. Sometimes they're caring, sometimes they're learning at different times. So I suppose it's just not making any assumptions about when or why people might want a learning opportunity or a development opportunity. So really it's about, yeah, offering it at any age. Yeah, not assuming that someone doesn't want something, but don't assume that it is for everyone as well.
And a lot of it is just about how you engage and sometimes even internally advertise these opportunities. So we talk to a lot of employers actually and when they stop, when they look at what's on their internal intranet or the things that they're sharing or putting up on posters, often it is the language they use and the pictures they use, they talk about "early stage careers" or things like that, which really do imply that it is just for younger employees.
So it's about changing that mindset, getting things out in different ways. Also thinking about the ways you offer things because sometimes people do want to learn and develop but it's not always through formal training. So there can be other ways of offering it as well.
Alistair McQueen: And if I can just interject quickly, from Aviva's perspective two things that we would say. One is we've showcased examples of people embracing opportunities towards the later part of their career. We have 300 apprentices inside the Aviva organisation. Most people assume apprentices are young people leaving school. We've got a 67-year-old apprentice in Aviva learning brand new skills. We've shouted from the rooftops about a 67-year-old apprentice that Aviva's investing in, to counter the perception that career development is something for you when you're just younger, not older.
The second thing I would say is that people approaching retirement today, many of them, statistics tell us, are in a fortunate position where they maybe do have financial choice. Many of them will have had some final salary pensions as they've approached retirement, giving them choice of whether they want to or not keep working. That will change in the coming decade plus, and people may maybe not have a choice of wanting to work or not, but they will need to work. And so the pressure, at the moment it's the organisation trying to hug the employee closer. In the coming decade that will change to employees saying, "I need to keep working. I need to take advantage of these opportunities to sustain myself, to help me fund my longer life in retirement." So yes, shout about the great things that organisations are doing. Tell your employees what you're doing. But I think employees themselves will wake up to the need to keep developing their skills in the not-to-distant future.
Bar Huberman: Really interesting to hear about how you need to think about things slightly differently, so thanks both of you for that. Alistair, you talked briefly about this and we had a question from Jim as well. He wants to know, "Older people can actually help to increase sales by understanding the older people market better than young people and explaining this to the board as well in a specific technical role. So how can you make this kind of thing work?"
Alistair McQueen: Well certainly as I said earlier we looked at our demographic of our customer base. Two-thirds of our 50 million customers are in the 45+ age demographic and I guess it's probably instinctive that somebody who is themselves in that age demographic will have great views as to the needs of that population. We also really do look to customer data. When it comes to developing products, for example, we tried to avoid assumptions about what this population might need in the pressure they're facing. We really do listen to the voice of the customer and then bring in our own employees in that demographic to test that perception.
One that I think we're trying to bin increasingly is the perception that digital technology is something for the young. I think that is now out-of-date thinking. The statistics will show the fastest-growing population of digital users in the UK are the over-55s. In the next decade there'll be no age difference in terms of adoption of digital technology. So without looking at the statistics, without listening to the customers, we would have initially assumed that digital technology is not for older people. That is no longer the case. We have to keep listening and use our own people to test our understanding. You've got a great resource in our own organisation. Aviva gets 5,000 people. They are consumers themselves. So we bring them in, use their skillset, use their experience to help shape our products for our two-thirds of our 50 million customers.
Bar Huberman: That's really interesting that you mentioned about the fastest-growing digital adopters, because we had lots of people ask about that, supporting older workers to stay up-to-date with digital transformation.
Patrick, I've got a question for you. You touched on this but I wondered if you could expand on it. Gillian asked what adjustments are reasonable for older workers in circumstances where they might be in poor health.
Patrick Thomson: So just a very quick answer is all employers have a legal obligation to offer reasonable adjustments in the workplace. It's just thinking about some of those conditions that are sort of slower onset ones as well. So it's not being suddenly diagnosed with something overnight. It's not about breaking your leg, but it's about things that might occur over a number of years, and actually small changes to adjustments that can become very important. They can be as simple as a small change to your physical setup at a desk or something like that. There are also really important things that aren't perhaps talked about enough at work but do affect this age group, so things like the menopause at work. Things that perhaps aren't as well developed in other areas as well but might just need a small adjustment like being able to open a window. Having a fan or something like that in a meeting room. So it's about being open and it's allowing people the opportunity to disclose health conditions in a supportive environment.
Alistair McQueen: And again, particularly in Aviva, we have a strong carers' policy. We now give the same caring support and leave to people with caring responsibilities for younger children and for older members of their family. That's a new development for us, recognising that many people in this age demographic, the sandwich generation, have pressures on them from both ends of their family potentially, and so we give equal treatment, whether you're needing to take time off to care for your child or whether you're needing to take time off to care for your parent or your elderly relative. We give equal treatment to both, responding to the needs of this demographic.
Bar Huberman: Okay. Thanks very much both of you. Unfortunately I think that's all we've got time for today. I'd love to carry on. We've had lots of engagement from everybody but I think we've run out of time. So I hope that during the past hour we've given everyone some really useful ideas for strategies you can put in place to battle skills shortages through recruiting and retaining older workers.
I'd like to say a huge thank you to Patrick Thomson and Alistair McQueen for giving us their insights today. If you want more information on this topic, XpertHR has a number of resources that can help, including our case study on Aviva's Midlife MOT, as well as a briefing for line managers on age discrimination.
That brings us to the end of today's webinar, brought to you by XpertHR. Thanks for listening and goodbye.