Whilst legislation has caught up with the times, removing the Default Retirement Age which allows individuals to work past the traditional age of retirement, it appears that employers’ attitudes towards the older generations may be at risk of not keeping pace. Despite ‘Baby Boomers’ (aged 54-71) making up 33% of the workforce, they can often be overlooked in the workplace.
The Health Insurance Group warns that businesses who ignore this valuable generation do so at their peril, as it speaks volumes to others coming through the rankings about how talent is valued at different life stages. We have an ageing population and older workers are going to make up an increasing percentage of the workforce. Organisations can be so fixated on attracting new, young recruits, that it can be at the detriment of harnessing more experienced, older talent. Being side-lined is not desirable for the individual nor employee brand, yet it appears to be happening; this age group say they feel discriminated against in the workplace with over 50% of those aged 55-64 saying they’ve been turned down for a job because of their age.
By taking the time to understand the backdrop, current lifestyle and motivators of the Baby Boomers, businesses can engage them better through workplace initiatives that can drive engagement, thus tap into their unparalleled years of experience, and increase productivity.
• Financial health
This generation is considered to have ‘had it all’ by the generations that have followed. They grew up in a time of widespread government subsidies, they had free further education, and more access to affordable housing.
However, this generation can also be part of the sandwich generation, looking after parents and children both physically and financially. So personal finances are being stretched further, and many people in this age bracket will have to work longer to fund such demands and also afford retirement.
With so many demands on them financially it’s important to ensure these employees have adequate financial protection for themselves and their dependants in the event of death, illness or injury.
Similarly, businesses that provide access to financial advice, as part of an employee benefits package, can be extremely valuable to the Baby Boomers, to help them maximise their finances and save for the future.
• Physical health
The likelihood and prevalence of health conditions increases with age. Healthy ageing is a lifelong process, and patterns of behaviour that affect health are often established in early life, such as nutrition, exercise, alcohol consumption and smoking.
However, changing course is beneficial at any age. Indeed, the risk of premature death decreases by 50% when people stop smoking at age 60–75 years. And according to the World Health Organisation’s ‘Global Recommendations for physical activity and health’, evidence shows that adults aged 65 years and over have lower rates of all causes of mortality if they’re active.
So now is a good time to talk health to this generation and encourage good patterns of behaviour while there’s still time for it to make a difference.
Likewise, now is the time for businesses to encourage individuals to utilise preventative healthcare solutions, such as health check-ups, screenings and health MOTs to identify and monitor any potential issues: making early intervention possible, with less invasive treatments and increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome.
As they’re getting older, this generation is more likely to see the personal advantages of healthcare benefits such as private medical insurance and cash plans, so ensure that what’s included in such benefits is appropriate, communicate the benefits and encourage take-up.
This age group is more likely to experience bereavement. Older bereaved people are up to four times more likely to experience depression, but less likely to receive support for it.
This can be for a variety of reasons, but it’s not difficult for companies to provide support. Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and group protection benefits can all include bereavement counselling, helping individuals to feel supported in challenging times. It’s important to have such support in place and that this generation is made aware it exists.
This generation was brought up by parents from the post-War era, characterised by their getting-on-with-it attitude. So baby boomers are less likely to have been encouraged to talk about their feelings, certainly less so than the generations that have followed. Not only may they be less likely to seek help for emotional struggles, they’ll also have different challenges from other generations. Bereavement will be one; caring for elderly relatives, the challenges of children living at home, the stress of juggling a lot of responsibilities will be others. Divorce rates also spike for the 55-plus age-group.
Forward-thinking businesses will recognise the specific challenges of this generation and make support available. It’s important that employees are encouraged to use it, understand that it’s confidential, and can make use of it in a way that’s accessible to them. Some in this generation will be more tech-savvy than others, some will like more traditional methods of interaction, so it’s also a good idea to make support services available via a range of avenues, including apps as well as face-to-face counselling.
Isolation and loneliness can start to affect this group, and businesses need to think carefully about what engagement initiatives they offer. A game of rounders at the local park or networking session in a noisy pub may not be ideal. Equally, it may be perfect. Either way, take time to understand what engagement initiatives Baby Boomers would like to see and as far as possible, accommodate them.
Brett Hill, managing director at The Health Insurance Group, comments:
“Baby Boomers have very specific challenges that they deal with, it’s vital that these are recognised, and that appropriate benefit and engagement strategies are implemented.
“And now is a great time to engage with them on their health, when this group makes positive changes to their patterns of health behaviour they still have a chance to reap the rewards. It’s an important message to let them know they still have time to make a difference.
“It can be easy for employers to forget about Baby Boomers, as they’ve been in the workforce for longer, are more experienced and can just get on with the job. But how employers treat this age group speaks volumes to all other generations in the workplace that follow.”