Age is just a number: Enticing professionals over 50 back to work

6 min read | Yvonne Smyth | Article | Job searching Market trends Corporate social responsibility Diversity, equity and inclusion

Enticing professionals

In recent months there’s been plenty of talk and media coverage on what is now being referred to as the ‘great unretirement’. In other words, we are seeing a notable rise in over 50s returning to work, which could be partly due to the rising cost of living. The Insight Report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that four in 10 of the older professionals who left their jobs during the pandemic are now showing a willingness to return to work. 

More and more organisations are realising that older workers could be an untapped talent pool and we are seeing signs of employers actively hiring those over the age of 50 to help combat the skills crisis. As revealed in our 2023 UK Salary & Recruiting Trends Guide, nearly a fifth (19%) of employers are now hiring professionals over the age of 50 to address the skills shortages that are affecting most sectors.

We carried out some research on LinkedIn, separate to our annual guide, to gather more data on the topic; although more than a third (36%) of respondents believe there isn’t a stigma around over 50s returning to work, over half (53%) are less optimistic, saying there is stigma. Employers have work to do to dispel this stigma and reassure older professionals that they are both wanted and needed in the workforce today. The question is: what can organisations do to appeal to these potential candidates?

Attracting older professionals back into the workforce

When asked which factor is the most important for attracting and retaining older workers today, 37% of respondents said flexible hybrid working, followed by 28% who said an appealing salary and benefits, whilst 25% said flexible working hours and only 10% believe interesting projects are crucial to entice workers over 50 back into the workforce.

As well as these factors, a large majority (76%) of respondents believe part-time opportunities are more likely to attract over 50s back to work. For example, employers may struggle to tempt someone who has retired to now work in an office for five days. In our Quarterly Insights Survey published last year, when looking at what would tempt professionals to work part-time past retirement age or return after retiring, the top motivation was continued income (57%), followed by new challenges (18%), overcoming boredom (15%) and interaction with colleagues (10%).

Employers who wish to tap into this talent pool ought to openly offer flexibility, including part-time working. Nevertheless, each professional is an individual with different needs, regardless of age: organisations must bear this in mind when attempting to attract new talent.

Advice for over 50s returning to work

If you are an older professional considering re-employment, here are the top three tips I suggest for navigating this:

1. Research the best places to find available roles and specifically tailor each application

It’s a good idea to gain an awareness of the current recruitment landscape and know exactly where to search for suitable roles, such as specialist job boards and LinkedIn. Pay close attention to each job description so you can tweak your CV to reflect the skills they look for. Researching organisations will also enable you to find out if they offer the benefits, you value most.

2. Keep your LinkedIn profile and CV up to date to reflect your current skillset and experience

Make the most of social media to get back into the world of work, as many employers use LinkedIn to not only advertise vacancies but to have a look at the profiles of prospective employees. Ensure you highlight your most relevant skills, experience, and goals for the future to portray your best self.

3. Consider upskilling in certain areas you lack confidence in or in skills that need sharpening

There are many training and development opportunities out there to help you learn new skills or refresh the ones you already have. This kind of preparation will support you when returning to work, so you don’t feel out of place or practice: a natural worry for anyone who has spent some time out of work.

Final thoughts

Older workers, who could certainly help close the skills gap, should not be afraid to ask employers for what they want, as more companies are likely to adapt to attract and retain this talent pool. However, the stigma around age could be holding some older professionals back from returning to work.

As our research polls indicate, over half (51%) of respondents disagree that employees are treated equally in their organisation, regardless of age. Ultimately, everyone, no matter what their age, should receive the same level of respect and equal opportunities.

Hopefully the current focus on older professionals returning to the workplace will shine a light on the value of all different aged employees. It may also encourage employers to reassess how diverse their teams are in terms of age and what they are doing as an organisation to overcome certain limitations.

About this author

Yvonne is the Group Head of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for Hays plc, with over 23 years professional recruitment experience.

Yvonne spearheads Hays’ commitment to being recruiting experts by ensuring that our major recruitment linked activities and insights are designed to positively promote and create more diverse workforces and inclusive workplace cultures. Working directly with customers, in partnership with subject matter experts, community groups, and through colleagues, Yvonne has been responsible for creating and curating a suite of resources designed to inform, support and enable our customers to progress their D&I linked commitments and navigate their careers.

Yvonne is the national specialism director for Hays Human Resources, the largest HR specialist recruiter in the UK. She is responsible for the HR national strategy within this high growth and pivotal specialism consisting of over 70 consultants across 45 locations. Yvonne is also the national specialism director for Hays Legal and Hays Company Secretarial, a team of over 35 experts across 7 locations.

Recently Yvonne was featured in the SIA 2019 Global Power 150 Women in Staffing list, which recognises the female leaders and influencers in the global market space. Prior to joining Hays, Yvonne initially trained and qualified as a litigation

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