There are some statistics that are so big they can be hard to comprehend. In the 20th century, the global population doubled... and then doubled again. A significant demographic shift is set to take place again, as the number of people over 65 is anticipated to double, reaching more than 1.1 billion in less than 25 years. That's a huge leap. While to some, 65 might seem the age when you retire and start enjoying life without work, for many, the reality of longer life expectancy means frankly, this just isn't possible.
The aging workforce
Since the turn of the century the percentage of over 65s in the American workforce has risen from 13% to 20%, while almost half of Germans in their early 60s are in employment - twice as many as a decade ago. Recognising that we're all working longer than ever before, the UK Government's business champion for older workers, Andy Briggs, publicly called for British companies to hire another million older workers by 2022.
The simple fact is that too many firms are focusing their attention on accommodating younger generations coming in to the labour market, often at the expense of older workers. But for the first time, five distinct generations are present in workplace, each with their own world view, life experience, career vision and expectations. Employers now face a challenge to provide engaging and fulfilling experiences for every employee.
The blind leading the blind
Employers lack the data and tools to understand such a complex demographic mix of employees, let alone how best to retain their skills within the business. Our recent research found that 42% of HR departments only have a partial view of their workforce, meaning they don't know what skill sets they have or where the best talent is. A "one size fits all" approach isn't going to cut it as, let's face it, you cannot expect a 65-year-old employee to have the same aspirations, needs and desires as a 21-year-old graduate.
More progressive businesses are taking a hard look at their data and even other scientific disciplines such as psychology, to overcome these challenges. Our research revealed that 29% of organisations have already started hiring people scientists to understand how their employees work and what they value most - we've just hired a people scientist ourselves!
Some companies are even taking this to the next level to spot issues in advance. For example, Aveva is already using this to great effect, reducing their attrition rate by 5% a year. Knowledge is power as they say - so this intel can form the foundation to change working practices.
Getting to grips with understanding the needs of an aging workforce isn't an impossible task. The technology and scientific approach is out there to guide HR departments through the data at their fingertips. This will be crucial to creating truly transformative working experiences that attract, retain and nurture the top talent that businesses need - no matter what their age.