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An image of a younger worker socialising with an older worker during their lunchbreak, outside a workshop.

The latest research from Totaljobs and Robert Walters has revealed that three quarters of people in their 50s have never been offered a promotion by their current employer. What’s more, a third are not aware of what they need to do in order to get one.

This comes in spite of the ONS estimation that by 2020 one in three UK workers will be in their 50s, highlighting their importance to employers, and the UK’s economy overall.

An ageing workforce

The UK’s ageing population has coincided with a rise in state pension eligibility – to 66 as of October 2020 – meaning that workers turning 50 may still have over 15 years of work ahead of them. With this, talented workers naturally remain driven in their career ambitions well into their fifties, and employers should be mindful as to not discount them.

The study, taken from over 8,000 people, has revealed that over 40% of workers in their 50s believe that there is a lack of opportunity to progress. Alongside this, a fifth cite a lack of training as a barrier to their progression. Of those who have had access to training, 90% have undertaken it, showing those in their fifties are eager to learn and are prepared to add more strings to their bow if the opportunity arises.

What this means for employers

Last year, we found that 2 in 3 employers are struggling with a skills shortage. This means that employers need to make the most of this untapped pool of talent. There is plenty that older workers bring to the workplace and ensuring their knowledge is passed on before they retire is vital. What’s more, with this group making up a third of the UK workforce, businesses must ensure that their attraction and retention strategies are not excluding them.

The challenge for employers is that, our study revealed that almost half of these workers are willing to change jobs and seek a new employer if their pathway to progression is not made clear.

Employers should be sure to make progression as clear as possible to employees of all ages, and to conduct an open-door policy with their team. By offering training and development, alongside clear progression plans and appraisals, employers can go a long way to keep people engaged regardless of their age.

Alexandra Sydney, Group Marketing Director at Totaljobs said:

Our research reveals a significant proportion of the UK workforce believe they are being overlooked for promotion opportunities. As life expectancy increases and the number of older workers rises, employers need to ensure they cater to the needs of all employees across the generations, lest they see a dip in engagement and productivity.

Tackling age-related bias both during the recruitment process and within workplace culture is essential to fostering an inclusive environment that values longevity of experience, while also acknowledging that learning and development doesn’t become less relevant with age. Older workers clearly see the value of training opportunities, so employers should look to understand where this cohort want to upskill, or even reskill, in order to further their career.

Alongside this, promoting inclusive employment policies and highlighting progression paths is essential in making sure experienced workers feel valued. Failing to invest in older workers could lead to them feeling devalued and ‘checking out’ long before retirement.