Harnessing the power of age diversity and adapting business for an ageing workforce

Rachael Saunders, BITC's Age at Work Director reflects on the Winner and the Finalists in the Championing an Ageing Workforce Award.

Our population is ageing. Currently, 10 million people in the UK are over 65 years old and this number is projected to nearly double, to around 19 million, by 2050. The first person who will live to 150 has already been born. Older workers are vital for the future of the economy, and the need to develop a long-term strategic approach to recruiting and retaining older workers is crucially important for businesses. 

The Championing an Ageing Workforce Award was a chance to showcase those businesses who are amongst the first few willing to put their head above the parapet and set out what they are doing to respond to the challenges and opportunities of our ageing population.

With an ageing population, more of us will have caring responsibilities for a partner, relative or close friend.  Centrica, Winner of the Championing an Ageing Workforce Award is leading the way on support for those carers – and their leading edge polices deliver real business results.   

Centrica has a 1,000 strong carers network, which can demonstrate tangible outcomes on engagement and productivity for the people it supports – with a signature policy of a month’s carers leave, where annual leave will be matched by the company to support time out to care, and strong senior leadership backing.  

The network itself is a source of support for people, some of whom may have a short term care crisis, others of whom spend years balancing work with heavy duty care for someone they love.  

This is a powerful, wide reaching employee network, with strong business backing, covering one aspect of BITC’s Missing Million recommendations on age at work.  Centrica thoroughly deserve this recognition. 

Although very different organisations - from Centrica, as well as from each other - our two Finalists also utilised employee networks, for different purposes. Sodexo have innovated on intergenerational conversations, while the Department for Transport has created a system of employee-led support.  Together with Centrica, three have led the way.

Sodexo’s innovative communications, including a game to facilitate conversations between generations, and messages on pay slips, was led by an employee network, with senior sponsorship and active support from the board, and clear business outcomes on engagement.

The Department for Transport’s work is also employee network led, with support from the top of the organisation. Initiatives such as a Carers Passport, and support and information to support preparation for retirement, will make it easier for people to work longer and to make the right choices when they do retire.

So currently it is employee networks that are driving business to champion their ageing workforces. I hope that next year we will see a wide range of business leaders themselves take up the baton – we need a wide ranging, strategic response to our ageing population.

Read more about the Winner and Finalist companies of this award.