Key steps to retain and retain your older workforce in physically demanding roles.

Susan Jordan, Chief Executive, St Leger Homes, outlines a number of key steps that the organisation takes to make the most of the skills and knowledge of their ageing workforce.  St Leger Homes were outstanding winners of the Business in the Community Championing and Ageing Workforce award in 2016. 

Read the complete case study of St Leger Homes winning award entry >>


Key steps 

Focus on the individual

  • Avoid the crisis before it begins.  Have a career conversation, early, and in a supportive way, before any crisis arises.  The employer can encourage an individual to make any decisions or changes that they might want to make – from changing career to trying something new.  
  • Be realistic with the employee.  Especially in a physically demanding role, it may not be possible to carry on as before.  Be honest about what is possible, whilst being openminded to new ways of deploying skills.  Be prepared to support people.  
  • Recognise that responsibilities change.  As colleagues get older, they might have to care for grandchildren or older parents.  They might have illnesses themselves, or illnesses in the family, which have an impact on the hours they can do.  The question is, how can the organisation be as flexible as possible, to support?  

Focus on the organisation

  • Consider other members of the team.  It isn’t fair to others if one team member is not able to pull their weight – take action early to find solutions.  
  • Think of the wider value.  An individual with lots of technical skills and loyalty to the organisation is worth holding on to.  
  • See the cultural benefit.  An organisation that carers for its people will be respected as a responsible business. The message gets out to other colleagues that they will be supported if they need it too.  
  • Think of the business case.  St Ledger Homes has reduced sickness absence and stress levels in the organisation.  Recruitment costs are also down.  
  • Open up opportunities for other staff.  Having a plan to support progression for people across the organisation means that everyone will appreciate the support available – not just a chosen few.  Having succession plans in place gives the opportunity for someone else to step up and  perform in the position vacated by a retrained employee, and you still have the experienced member of staff to act as a workplace mentor and help that person develop.  If someone does part time, how can you open up the other part of the job to an apprentice or intern?