Older workers don’t drag down workplace performance, study shows

Older workers account for a growing proportion of the UK workforce, and a new study by research institute NIESR (the National Institute of Economic and Social Research) shows that greater numbers of older workers are not associated with a deterioration in workplace performance.

However, that doesn’t mean that businesses can ignore this demographic shift. NIESR said it’s increasingly important for firms to understand more about the working experiences of older individuals and to think about whether their workplace is a welcoming environment for the older generation of employees.

The study – Older workers and the workplace: Evidence from the Workplace Employment Relations Survey – found:

On average, the percentage of the workforce aged 50 and over rose from 21% in 2004 to 24% in 2011. In 2011, 19% of workplaces did not employ any older workers, while in 14% of workplaces, at least half the workforce were aged 50 or above.

There was no significant association between changes in the proportion of older workers employed and changes in a range of workplace performance measures. There was some evidence that workplace labour productivity falls where the proportion of workers aged 22-49 falls, either due to a rise in the proportion of older or younger workers. But this association does not carry through to financial performance.

Older workers were less likely to have received at least one day of training in the year prior to the survey than employees in younger age groups.

On average, older workers report higher job satisfaction and job-related wellbeing than workers aged 22 to 49.

Employees of all ages who were able to work flexibly were more likely to be positive about their job.

Study co-author Lucy Stokes said: “The workforce is getting older. Improving the experiences of older workers is vital if we want to encourage individuals to remain in employment for longer. While equal opportunities practices are important, greater focus on other employer practices, such as provision of flexible working or job design, may be required. These may have benefits for employees of all ages, not just older workers.”

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