New research shows employers are not embracing over the 50s


Baby Boomers – many of whom have up to another 20 years left to work – are effectively being shoved in the corner and are frustrated and demotivated by not being able to develop their careers, contribute to business growth and pass their valuable knowledge and insights onto younger workers.

These are some of the key messages to emerge from a new Ashridge research report ‘Don’t Put Baby (Boomers) in the Corner: Realising the Potential of the Over 50s at Work’ – part of a series looking at the challenges and opportunities presented by today’s inter-generational workforce.

The skills and contributions of older workers play an important part in the country’s economy. The 50 plus age-group already accounts for around 30 per cent of total employment in the UK and by 2020 will represent one third of the working population.

Maximising the potential of these Baby Boomers is clearly vital for organisations who want to thrive and grow, but the research suggests there is a real mismatch between what over 50s want from work and the way they are portrayed, managed and valued within the business.

The survey of 2,000 plus over 50s, as well as HR staff working in organisations that employ Baby Boomers, showed that older workers are mainly driven by a desire for interesting work, a sense of achievement, pride and being able to leave a legacy.

They are still ambitious, want challenging jobs and are hungry for continued growth and career development. In contrast, the focus of HR professionals – and indeed of managers across the wider business – was on developing the younger generations to fulfil their potential, with development for older workers mainly centred around retirement and financial planning.

The report also suggests a number of practical actions organisations could take to help over 50s maximise their contribution and continue to thrive at work.

These include taking a more individual and informal approach to career discussions, introducing coaching and mentoring initiatives and exploring options for older workers to get involved in advisory roles or special projects.

“The findings are a real wake-up call for organisations to think about how valued their older workers feel and are portrayed, both in and outside the business,” said Research Fellow Dr Carina Paine-Schofield, who co-authored the report with Ashridge Associate Sue Honoré. “Baby Boomers are often in senior positions and are role models for others in the business.

If they are not stimulated and engaged at work, the knock-on effect on the motivation levels of others could be enormous. Organisations also need to think about how the way they perceive and manage older workers impacts on recruitment and their brand image as an employer.”