Older workers will be prized employees in the workplace of 2020

The workplace of 2020 will see older workers as prized employees with the knowledge and experience to fend off graduate competitors, researchers have predicted.

A new report, Visions of Britain 2020, by Friends Provident and the Future Foundation, predicts that workers aged between 55 and 70, who may currently feel marginalised in the employment market, will be in a much stronger position in 2020, while inexperienced graduates will need to become ever more entrepreneurial to find work.

The number of older workers in employment stands at 5.14 million, but by 2020 that figure will have risen to an estimated 7.16 million. The report, which is based partly on the combined opinions of a panel of employment experts, suggests that although prejudice of the old will not disappear completely, the added value such employees can bring will be fully recognised.

Two-thirds of the panel agreed that, by 2020, there will be a skills shortage, but said that a lack of talent, in addition to a new-found respect for experience, will likely create many more opportunities for older workers.

The report also found that an unintended consequence of the recession has been appreciation of the value of experience. It says: “This creates a scenario in which older workers will be able to stay active and supplement pensions while contributing in a powerful way.”

Along with the older workers and graduates, the report identifies a third group – the “sandwich generation” – defined as those struggling to balance the demands of young children and ageing parents. They will force employers to rethink their approach to flexible working simply because they are too valuable to lose, it says.

Panel member Charles Cotton, adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: “Organisations that are able to be flexible and can build their work patterns around those individuals may find it easier to attract them.”

But the report warns that flexible working comes with its own problems. “Homeworking provokes unintended consequences,” it states. “It’s much harder to express a company culture and to share goals when workers are geographically spread. It’s also harder to exchange knowledge. Homeworking goes against the benefits of people working in teams and it may not be too strong to suggest that flexible working damages the knowledge economy.”

Long-term prospects for older workers have been boosted by the coalition government’s vow to phase out the default retirement age (DRA). However, the move angered equality groups, who have called – alongside Personnel Today – for the DRA to be scrapped immediately.

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