Recruiting older workers brings a number of benefits to an organisation, particularly in enabling organisations to benefit from age diversity in work practices. As electricity companies face new and changing customer demands, older workers can help to ensure that company services are responsive to a diversity of customers, and particularly to the needs of an ageing population. Older workers often hold skills, experience and knowledge not held by younger applicants, and for this reason should be highly valued for their actual and potential contribution. Older workers may also hold skills that are easily adapted and developed to the benefit of new organisational and business demands. In this sense older workers can help to raise the skills profile of the workforce and therefore contribute to innovation, productivity and change.
What can electricity companies do to promote the recruitment of older workers?
The following are some human resources practices that can be put in place to ensure that companies promote age diversity and recognise the value and contribution of recruiting older workers:
Ensure that job advertisements promote age diversity. This can be done by removing age limits to recruitment in advertisements for jobs and making a statement in job advertisements that older workers with relevant experience are encouraged to apply.
Interviewing and selection
Review interview methods and if necessary bring in specialists to participate on interview panels so as to ensure that interview questions do not focus on age. Promoting age diversity means focussing on the skills, competencies and experience of interviewees, as well as giving attention to the needs and requirements of older applicants.
Target older workers
In some cases it may be relevant to consider how older workers can be targeted in recruitment campaigns, for example, specific recruitment and advertising that is aimed at older workers. In some cases companies may consider targeting their advertising to older workers who have been made redundant or who or who are in involuntary retirement.
Non-discrimination in recruitment and selection
Ensure that your recruitment and selection processes are free from discrimination, by checking the language and assumptions contained in recruitment policies and practices. Make a positive statement in your written recruitment and selection policies about the value of age diversity in the company.
Offer terms and conditions of employment that accommodate older workers needs
Offering terms and conditions of employment, such as flexible working hours, that accommodate older workers needs should be set out in job advertisements and in selection procedures. Highlighting these issues will be important to attracting older workers who may be seeking to work flexibly or who may wish to work in a position that gives them a different work profile than they had in previous employment.
The workplace of today is characterised by rapid changes in work processes, in competition, in customer demands, and in work practices. To keep abreast of these rapid changes employers and employees must be committed to lifelong learning in order to keep ahead. Learning should be a normal part of everyday working practices, whether this is formal, informal or structured learning. Learning needs to be relevant, engaging and compelling. Employees who are active participants in learning are more likely to be active, loyal and to progress at work.
The increasing reliance on technology and performance-based requirements in companies requires more regular updating of skills so that workers can keep abreast of change and develop their skills. As the workforce ages the training and development of older workers is key to providing the correct skills mix in an organisation. Enabling and supporting all workers to update their skills and learning may require companies to put in place targeted programmes of training and development of older workers. This is particularly important because many companies find that older workers do not participate in large numbers in training and development activities and may have missed out on opportunities in the past.
Providing older workers with opportunities for training and skills development is an important element of good practice in promoting a culture of lifelong learning across the whole of a person’s working life. And, as many forward looking companies now recognise, training is now an integral part of employee’s career paths. Putting a priority on the training and development needs of older workers can help to overcome the skills deficits that result in many older workers voluntarily or involuntarily taking an early exit from the labour market.
What can electricity companies do to promote the training and development of older workers?
The following are some of good practices in the area of training and development that can be put in place as part of an overall human resources strategy to enhance the contribution of older workers and retain them in the workforce.
Make training and development an integral part of the company culture
It is critical that training and development becomes a central part of skills and career planning for all employees. Investing in training and development will be more important in the future for companies that want to retain their competitive edge. It is important that this is linked to an individual employee’s life-cycle, and the needs and requirements at different stages of their working lives. Taking a life-cycle approach to training and career development will also help to establish the centrality of training and development for all workers and this can help to improve the willingness and motivation to participate in training development as employees get older.
Remove barriers to training and development programmes
In some cases companies may have written or unwritten practices that set age limits on the participation of workers in company training and development programmes. Removing these is a first step. A second step is to ensure that older workers know that training and development opportunities are open to them. In some cases this may need a change in the mindset of a manager or team-leader so that they inform older workers of training and development opportunities, and encourage their participation.
Put in place training methods and supports that are relevant to older workers
In some cases older workers may not be interested in and motivated to participate in training and development programmes because they are seen to be ‘for younger workers’. Companies can play an important role in motivating and encouraging older workers by demonstrating that training programmes are relevant and adapted to the needs of older workers. Consideration should be given to the training methods used and the support that can be provided during training and development programmes.
Develop innovative methods of learning and development
Being innovative in the way that programmes of learning and development are organised can help to encourage participation from all age groups. Organising learning in the workplace so that younger and older workers can work together in learning teams can help to promote skills sharing, learning and development. This can be organised informally and formally, for example, through study groups, work-based learning or workshops. It may also be important to provide incentives to increase the effective participation of all age groups in learning activities. This can also be linked to processes to keep older employees‘ knowledge up to date, as well as individualised formal and informal learning programmes that are tailored to the specific needs of older workers to enhance their professional, social and personal skills.
Employee development schemes
Many companies offer employee development programmes that support the development of skills, leisure, social and other interests outside of the workplace. These programmes can help to maintain company loyalty and to provide employees with incentives and motivation to improve their overall learning, health and well-being. They can include an annual budget allocated to each employee for adult education classes, sporting and leisure activities, as well as the subsidisation of programmes of university and college courses.
Collate data on the participation of older workers
It will be important for companies to collate data on the participation of older workers in training and career development programmes and the outcomes of these programmes. If it is found that older workers are not participating, measures should be put in place to redress this.
Analyse skill needs as a basis for training and development
An important element of planning for the training and development needs of older workers is for the organisation to carry out an analysis of skills needs and skills-mix requirements in the future. This analysis can form the basis for forecasting the training needs of older workers and matching them to future skills requirements. This is an essential basis for making future plans for training and development programmes.
Carry out regular training and development assessments of employees
One of the reasons that older employees do not participate in training and development programmes is that their needs have not been assessed. Regular training and development assessments should be carried out with the full participation and consultation of employees. One way to achieve this is to draw up an annual training and development plan, in consultation with an employee, with an action plan of how the plan can be implemented in practice. This should be monitored on an interim basis with the employee, to review progress in achieving the actions set out in the plan.
Utilise older workers to facilitate training
Using the skills, knowledge and learning of older workers as facilitators and trainers can also raise the profile of older workers and shift the culture of an organisation. Valuing the skills of older workers in this context can contribute to the training of younger and older workers.
Provide age sensitisation training for human resources practitioners
Human resources practitioners and training departments need to be sensitised to the needs of older workers and to the implications of demographic change for their organisations. By taking a systematic and planned approach, the provision of training and development can be tailored to the skills needs of the workforce. Of importance is that older workers are also consulted about appropriate training methods.
Link training to programmes for job rotation and redeployment
As discussed in the section below on job rotation and redeployment, training needs to be an integral element of changes in job content and profile that are implemented through job rotation and redeployment programmes. Training can enrich people’s working lives and provide more challenging and rewarding work, and also enable employees who have been engaged in heavy work to work in different positions. If job rotation programmes are to be successful and tailored to the needs of older workers then it is essential that training and development programmes are run in tandem.
The following checklist aims to get organisations assessing potential barriers experienced by older people in the workplace:
£ What are the main barriers that prevent older people from fully participating in the workplace?
£ Have you consulted with older people to find out, from their experience, what are the main barriers?
£ Do older workers have the same opportunities for training, promotion and career development as younger workers?
£ Is there age diversity in your organisation i.e. a balance of older and younger workers?
£ Do older workers benefit from flexible working hours?
£ Do your recruitment policies and procedures create barriers for older workers? Are your policies age neutral?
£ Are older workers able to and encouraged to apply for promotions and new positions in your company, including opportunities to change their jobs so that they are more suitable to older workers needs and requirements?
Many companies are now developing structured career and succession planning that are linked to business needs; building age management into this is an important new challenge for many companies. The objectives of age management are to combine people’s career development with a flexible, life-cycle oriented model of work in order to retain older workers and achieve a balanced age structure. In some cases older workers benefit from opportunities for alternative careers that are suited to their own professional development and age requirements.
Improving the career development of older workers needs to be seen in the context of the working life-cycle. By developing methods of professional career planning and succession planning, managers can help to accommodate the life-cycle needs and changes of older employees and provide workable solutions that help older workers to stay in the workforce and benefit from career development. In turn employees are also likely to be loyal and committed to the company if they are met.
What can electricity companies do to promote the career development of older workers?
Develop specific career development policies for older workers
As the workforce ages it has become important to develop policies and practices that promote the career development of older workers. In some cases career development can result in promotion, while in other cases it can result in a sideways move to a different but appropriate job. Both can be important to retaining older workers, and enhancing their motivation and performance. Central to the career development of older workers is that they carry out work tasks that utilise their experience and knowledge.
Carry out career development interviews
One way that the ambitions and needs of older workers can be accommodated is through the provision of career development interviews that identify career paths and career goals. This can help motivate older workers to make plans for career changes. Matching these with the relevant skills training can help to plug skills gaps, while also retaining valued employees.
Introduce courses in new technology for older workers
New technology has a key role to play in the retention of older workers; it is key to knowledge management and to adapting to changes in the workplace. Often competence in new technology is a job requirement and could be a challenge for an older worker. One way to overcome this is for companies to run information technology courses for older workers. For example, in one Norwegian electricity company special and compulsory information technology courses are run for workers over fifty years of age.
Utilise the skills of older workers in mentoring programmes
Older workers, particularly those that have had successful careers paths, can become valuable mentors for older and younger workers. Mentoring can provide role models, advice and valuable experience for older and younger workers seeking career development opportunities.
Consult with trade unions to help develop older worker’s career and job changes
It will be important for human resources managers to consult with trade union to develop wage policies that are commensurate with skills and experience when older workers participate in job rotation and career development programmes.
Providing opportunities for older workers to sustain their employment will help companies retain older workers in jobs that meet their capacities and promote employability. It can also be an effective tool in job and skills matching when companies face reorganisation and restructuring.
Ensuring that older workers have job profiles and work tasks that meet the requirements of the company and of the individual, is closely tied up with a preventative approach to age management, to the promotion of health and well-being and to the prevention of early exit from the labour market. Job rotation and redeployment can be used to reduce workloads and minimise the effects of stressful, monotonous or repetitive work tasks, to enhance job security for older workers, and provide opportunities for skills development.
If job rotation and redeployment programmes are to be successful they need to involve older workers in their design and implementation, they need to be properly planned and executed, and where necessary the appropriate training and development of older workers needs to be put in place. They are vital to new human resource development programmes that up-skill older workers and promote their career development.
Developing these programmes can be highly motivating for older workers, and they provide older workers with new challenges and possibilities to transfer their skills to new situations. It is crucial that job rotation and redeployment programmes do not de-skill older workers, rather the mindset should be that older workers can be empowered and motivated to take on new challenges in the workplace.
What can electricity companies do to develop job rotation and redeployment for older workers?
Develop a company job rotation programme
At a practical level job rotation programmes require coordination between different sections of the company, including occupational health and training functions. One way to achieve this is to ensure that older workers have opportunities to apply for new positions before they are advertised externally. A job rotation programme will need to be linked to career planning and development, and build in relevant and appropriate training and skills development to enable an older person to make a transition between on type of job and another. It will be important to invest in time and resources in matching older workers to new positions and in establishing and publicising internal job rotation programmes.
Develop an organisational-wide approach to redeployment
There are a range of relevant players that need to be involved in these programmes so as to promote the whole organisational approach to redeployment. These include company occupational health staff, trade union representatives, human resources practitioners, mangers and team leaders. For example, this approach will help to ensure that redeployment is closely linked into occupational health and safety assessments.
Monitor the effects of job rotation and redeployment programmes
Monitoring the outcomes of programmes is important. Do these programmes help to retain older employees? Have programmes enabled older workers to enhance their skills and benefit from career development? Are levels of productivity and company loyalty enhanced? Are there improvements in health and well-being in the workplace? Have rates of sickness leave been reduced?
Develop methods for the participation of employees and unions
A key to the success of such programmes will be the effective participation of employees and unions. In some cases the development of agreements in the workplace between employers and trade unions will be an important for ensuring that redeployment is not used as a tool for cutting wages or deskilling older workers. In other cases it will be important that the participation of employees and unions highlights the role of job rotation and redeployment as a mechanism for occupational health and safety.
An ageing workforce means that organisations need to plan for retaining knowledge from older workers as they retire. This knowledge of contacts, clients, business processes and how to solve problems is often tactic knowledge and may not be documented in company records. Electricity companies are increasingly recognising the need to identify the holders of business-critical knowledge and to develop new knowledge management retention tools and processes, as well as ways to promote informal knowledge sharing, and measures to access to expert knowledge of employees who have already retired.
Many of the new methods of knowledge management can be captured in a culture of learning. In particular, the ‘learning organisation’ concept brings the importance of day-to-day, informal and structured learning into one framework that supports the development and creativity of the company.
Older workers themselves can be retained to help new workers adapt to the working environment. Older workers represent an important knowledge pool, however, a loss of their knowledge and skills could be devastating for companies. For this reason intergenerational knowledge transfer and methods of retaining and managing knowledge will become more important in the future. Similarly a focus on business continuity planning in many companies has highlighted the need to document all different aspects of processes in a company.
Knowledge management is also closely connected to valuing the experience of older workers. Organisations can benefit from the experience and skills of older workers in a number of ways. In particular, intergenerational knowledge transfers can provide an important impetus to increasing motivation at work and in providing challenges for older workers.
What can electricity companies do to retain, transfer and manage knowledge?
Introduce innovative ways to retain and manage knowledge
Create systems for retaining knowledge and creating knowledge communities or groups as practical ways to share knowledge and skills in the workplace. It will be important to assess the risk of loss of workplace specific and company specific technical knowledge if employees leave. Retaining knowledge is one of the most important reasons for creating age diverse team structures, these can share knowledge, increase awareness and enhance problem solving skills.
Use new technology
Technology also has a role to play in knowledge management and retention; companies can capture knowledge through knowledge management systems, for example, by using the company’s intranet system to share work space, documentation and projects, and by developing appropriate documentation through plans and templates to capture project learning and outcomes.
Develop methods for transferring knowledge to new recruits
Advance recruitment initiatives provide an opportunity for old and new workers to overlap. By doing this the older worker can pass knowledge on to the new worker and help to retain valuable knowledge. Hiring a new worker six months prior to the retirement of an older workers can provide the time to building skills and passing on valuable skills and knowledge. Older, retiring workers can act as mentors, supervisors and consultants to people taking up new positions.
Introduce mentoring programmes
Implementing a mentoring scheme can be an excellent way of promoting intergenerational knowledge transfers. Mentoring can enable older workers to support and develop trainees and new employees, as well as support older workers in working life-cycle decisions.
Achieving the correct skill-mix for large and complex organisations that are changing rapidly presents many challenges in planning for the future. Achieving a competitive edge is essential as markets, competitive conditions and production processes change. For this reason achieving the best and appropriate skill-mix requires effective workforce planning and a focus on age diversity.
While hiring new employees is important to any organisation, particularly as this brings in new talent and new perspectives, it would be misplaced for organisations to rely on new employees to meet all future skills needs. For this reason it can equally be important to retain older employees and invest in their training and development. This is particularly important as organisations go through change and by recognising that older workers have unique skills and qualities that they have gained through their professional and work-life experiences. Age diversity, as in other areas of diversity, can help organisations to be dynamic and innovative.
How can electricity companies plan for the correct skills-mix for the workplace of the future?
Identify skills needs through workforce planning
data and introducing new methods for workforce planning will be important to
forecasting future skills needs. There a number of ways in which companies have
achieved this. The examples from RWE in
Retain older workers and develop their skills to match future skills needs
As the discussions above on recruitment, lifelong learning and job rotation and redeployment have shown there is an added value to developing the skills and careers of older workers to match those of future company requirements. Training, development, support and assistance programmes will be necessary outcome of workforce planning.
Recruit new talent
It is important for companies to build a large base and pool of potential recruits (this is discussed in more detail in Section 2.4). While it is important to find new and creative ways of holding onto older people’s skills and knowledge, it will be important that the industry profile and image is attractive to younger and older people. This can be achieved by changing the image and profile of the electricity industry so that it is attractive to young people, for example, by showing that electricity is essential to society and has a commitment to environmental sustainability. A key challenge is to ensure that new jobs are stimulating, challenging and attractive to younger people and older people.
This section of the Toolkit has shown a number of ways in which the skills and experience of older workers can be harnessed and developed for company competitiveness. It has been shown that having a diverse workforce has many benefits for companies seeking to recruit and retain the most talented workers.
A central element of diversity is the recognition and valuing of difference in its broadest sense. This means creating a work culture and workplace practices that recognise, value, respect and harness the contributions and talents of all for the benefit of the individual and the organisation. Having a diverse workforce can also help to improve the image of employment in the electricity sector, improve productivity and work satisfaction and maximise human resources so that staff feel valued and reach their full potential. In addition, accommodating diversity in the workplace can be an important pre-requisite for providing services to the public.
Age management is integral to the management of diversity, the principle of which is that companies value the individual for what they offer, regardless of age or gender. Promoting age diversity means developing an organisational culture where older and younger workers work together on projects where each is able to actively contribute, and where they can learn from each other. While many electricity companies have developed diversity programmes that are targeted at improving the gender balance, particularly in non-traditional and senior positions, fewer have developed programmes of age diversity.
The management of age diversity can have some positive outcomes for companies, including intergenerational cooperation and knowledge sharing, a culture that values work experience and learning, appointments based on merit rather than age, improved staff loyalty, work satisfaction and performance.
£ A statement that age diversity is a core value for the organisation, and is part of a broader commitment to equality for all groups. This should state clearly how and why achieving age diversity is an important goal for the organisation. This can affirm the equal treatment of employees covering the grounds of gender, race and ethnicity, religion and belief, age, sexual orientation and disability.
£ Include in your policy issues that can help to accommodate the needs of older workers, including the need for age-neutral policies on recruitment and selection, staff retention, progression, training and development, working time and flexible working hours, pay, rewards and benefits, harassment and discrimination against older workers, health and well-being, occupational health and safety, consultation and participation of unions, data collection and monitoring and reporting of outcomes, roles and expectations of managers and employees. It will be important to focus specifically on the needs of older women in the workplace.
£ Provide explanations of how policies can work in practice with good practice examples in the areas covered in the policy.
£ Set out clear procedures for implementing and monitoring the policy.
up your policy with full participation and involvement of older workers and
unions. Not only does this ensure that you get the right focus to your policy
but also that it will become easier to implement it in practice. This will help
with disseminating information about the policy widely and getting the buy-in