There has been continued debate surrounding Britain’s ageing workforce and the demographic time bomb that’s waiting to go off. However, what everyone does appear to agree on is that the UK is currently dangerously reliant upon its older workers – potentially presenting a huge problem in the years ahead.
As older workers begin to retire and leave the UK workforce, they will also be taking with them their skills and experience which are vital to the effectiveness of the British labour market and competitiveness of the wider economy.
But, just how destructive is this problem? And could graduates be the answer?
The extent of the problem
The Office for National Statistics predict that there will be more than 3.7 million more workers aged 50 and over in the next ten years – during the same time there will also be 700,000 fewer working individuals aged 16-41.
A recent survey of SMEs highlighted that many employers feel that training and skills development is crucial to ensuring that mature employees can work effectively up to the age of 60 and beyond. They also agreed that such training also represented a good return on investment (ROI), as those employees were more likely to remain engaged with the business in the future.
Demographic differences in the labour market
Research by Hay Group found that older workers appear to be extremely attractive to the majority of employers as they are known for being very hard working, loyal and receptive to a top-down management approach. However, by contrast, the younger employees (often graduates) seem to bring elevated expectations and high levels of independence; leading to many firms finding it difficult to offer something these younger professionals would value.
While there has been much debate about whether graduates are prepared accordingly at university for the real world of work, isn’t it time for employers to invest more into developing the skills of this younger generation?
How employers can fill skill gaps
There’s no doubt that with the older, more experienced workers leaving the workforce there will be skill shortages – especially in the STEM sectors and industries. However, there are ways in which today’s employers can tackle this shortage head on, ensuring their business continues to thrive with the added creativity and enthusiasm of younger graduates.
- Talent recruitment schemes
It’s important for today’s businesses to establish a larger number of apprenticeships and graduate programmes with a clear alignment between businesses and educational institutions – including colleges and universities. This will attract younger talent and ensure their skills are used in the right way to benefit the British workforce as best as possible.
- Actively support the graduate generation
It’s important to ensure that as an employer you provide support for the ongoing development of key social and emotional skills that employees need to succeed in the workplace. This shouldn’t be an on-off thing either, but something you continue to do to ensure your younger employees turn into the best professionals they can be.
- Ensure your business culture attracts a multigenerational workforce
It’s vital that your business attracts both older and younger professionals in order to compete in today’s fierce market. This is all about educating and improving your business leaders in what is required from them while also changing the culture and reward schemes currently in place.
You should spend time concentrating on how your approach to engaging employees can be updated to create a strong link between the way people want to work and the contribution your firm wants from them.
This could include using social media more to engage with a younger graduate workforce or updating your recruitment methods.
It’s crucial to any business that you have a culture and workforce that is multigenerational, ensuring you can attract any talent regardless of their age.
But yes, graduates could indeed be the answer to the ageing workforce problem the UK labour market is currently facing.
Employers continually face new challenges as the workforce ages but they can all be overcome. Every graduates brings new opportunities with them too. As long as you, as an employer, remain on top of your game and spend the time to attract, develop and retain these younger professionals, you may find that your business benefits from their new ideas and tech-savvy abilities.