25/06/2015 11:32 BST | Updated 23/06/2016 06:59 BST

Ageism at Work Is Widening the Leadership Skills Gap

Figures have recently shown that the UK is headed for a considerable skills gap. It is estimated that 13.5million jobs will be created over the next ten years, leaving British businesses with a void of talent, especially for senior and management positions. The Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) has just conducted a report which shows that these positions should be being filled by over 50s, but this isn't always happening.

Employees over the age of 50 are constantly being overlooked for promotion despite possessing essential leadership skills, according to ILM's latest research report: 'Untapped talent: Can over 50s bridge the leadership skills gap'. It reveals that many organisations wrongly assume that staff over 50 lack the desire to develop and progress into more senior leadership roles. Our research statistics make interesting reading:

  • 61% of managers say their over 50s workers have low (20%) or very low (41%) potential to progress
  • This is despite the over 50s scoring higher than younger workers for occupation specific knowledge and skills (85%) and understanding of customers (78%)

This over 50s group, known also as baby boomers (born 1946-1964) are found to have greater standards of occupational specific knowledge and understanding of customers, which is consistent with the years of experience they have built up in their careers. But what is more compelling is that older workers' confidence and career targets are lower than their younger counterparts. Despite a keen desire to advance, fewer than half (46%) of over 50s managers expected to progress into a more senior position within the next 3 years. This was compared to 76% of millennial managers (born 1977-1997) and 62% for Generation X (born 1965-1976).

Essentially we are seeing signs of organisational ageism, where highly skilled and talented staff members have less opportunity to progress as they get older. It seems this culture is so embedded that many over 50s workers are accepting they have limited opportunities in their current organisations.

Since 2011 employers have been prevented from being able to force employees to retire when they reach the age of 65. So the face of the future workforce is changing. As new generations enter and older ones push back retirement; organisations have the opportunity to take full advantage of this age-diverse workforce. The future of UK companies can be even more bright and productive for the economy if employers and organisations look at the talent pool of their over 50s workers and encourage them to stay, to keep training them, not overlook them for internal promotions and devise flexible ways of ensuring that they can contribute and do not fall off the retirement cliff.

ILM believe that having a generationally diverse workforce can mirror a company's customer base. It is also important to remember the buying power of this group. We have produced guidelines to help organisations and employers navigate this future trend, which can be found here: Attract, Grow, Engage: Optimising the talents of an age-diverse workforce.

The benefit of diverse teams is that it encourages innovation through different skills sets, and people working longer contribute to the success of the economy. Essentially over 50s are still the leaders of tomorrow.