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Evolving Together: Flourishing in the age-diverse workforce

May 28, 2024
Age Diversity will Shape the Workforce of the Future

Globally, we are living longer and getting older.  Like comparable economies, this is true in the US. Not only that but, according to the Pew Research Center, America’s older workforce has nearly quadrupled since the mid-1980s - with the over 75s today making up the fastest-growing age group in the workforce. 

With a shrinking labor pool and fewer younger workers contributing to the economy, it follows that employers will be competing for talent and individuals who will be likely to remain in the workforce for longer. In the future age-diverse workplace, we are therefore likely to see more generations working in the same organizations at the same time.

As working into our 70s becomes the norm, it is key to consider how we ensure individuals and organizations can flourish; to understand what can accelerate progress towards a successful age-diverse workplace.

To explore this further, BSI asked business leaders in nine countries their perspective about the factors that will be critical accelerators for a successful future of work, especially as the workforce ages. The survey 'Evolving Together: Flourishing in the age-diverse workforce' finds growing focus worldwide on the maintenance of both physical and mental health. 

In the US for example, business leaders highlighted flexibility as their top workforce priority, emphasizing the desire for autonomy in choosing when, where, and how much work is done. They also placed strong emphasis on skills and retraining; a clear opportunity for future-thinking organizations to get on the front-foot, especially as AI shapes ways of working. 

In addition to analyzing results by country, queries were also made by sectors including construction, food, retail, healthcare, technology and transportation. 

The report specifically identified, detailed and rated key areas of interest and concern including:

  • Flexible working practices and policies
  • Enhancing older worker skills and training to increase retention
  • Remuneration/compensation
  • Opportunities for “phased” retirement
  • Providing attractive rewards and recognition
  • Creating inclusive, equitable and affirmative workplace cultures
  • General health and well-being including social care policies
  • The need for supportive fiscal frameworks including government incentives
  • The need to redesign jobs to accommodate older workers

Calls for action

BSI’s comprehensive 90 page report identifies clear areas for action. These include:

  1. Plan ahead: The age-diverse workforce is fast becoming a reality -  now is the moment to consider strategies to support meaningful careers and sustainable work throughout everyone’s lifetime.
  2. Rethink and reframe work: More than four years after the pandemic, now is the moment to open the conversation around how this flexibility can be enabled for the long-term.
  3. Support health and well-being: A flourishing workforce will be equipped to maintain physical health and psychological/ mental well-being. This may include proactive efforts to support workers to manage their health or investment in services used by the wider population. 
  4. Train, retrain and refresh: For people to flourish decades on, opportunities to learn new skills, returnships, or the chance to shift away from manual roles, are critical, especially in the context of the AI transformation.
  5. Make work worthwhile: Reward and remuneration will be core to how people relate to their job at any age – as will ensuring people remain challenged by their work.
  6. Enable an inclusive culture: Employers can partner with employees to ensure different generations are listened to and have an equal chance to contribute.

The US data speaks to ongoing characteristics of the country’s workforce structure, including a lower focus on provision for maternity leave, health and caring responsibilities. For example, the US was one of the few countries to note that benefits around caregiving (whether for children or the elderly) would be extremely important moving forward; contrasting with nations that already have stronger national systems of care in place.

Opportunites for increased efficiency

The report suggests as working dynamics shift, there is an opportunity to collaborate across society and accelerate progress towards a future of work where everyone can flourish, whatever their age or stage.

“Our working world is changing. Organizations and policymakers have the opportunity to harness these changes to help more people thrive in a future age-diverse workforce,” explains Susan Taylor Martin, BSI’s Chief Executive. 

“Investment in health and well-being is vital. So too is being agile when it comes to flexibility, skills, training and recruitment. Putting people’s needs at the centre of change offers the potential to unlock long-term productivity gains by empowering experienced people to stay in the workforce.”

Xavier Alcaraz, Global Practice Director for Health, Safety & Well-being, BSI notes, “As advanced automation technologies and AI disrupt how work is done, and demographic shifts become more significant, now is the time for businesses to partner with their people to drive strategies that harmonize new technologies with health and safety.”

He adds, “Companies that have adopted this strategy are better positioned to ensure a healthier, more engaged, and productive workforce in the generations to come while realizing a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

Evolving Together: Flourishing in the age-diverse workforce can be downloaded here.

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