Redundancy policy leaves firms with experience gap

Public-sector bodies are struggling to find staff with the experience to take on major projects because they have lost their older workers in redundancy drives.

Research carried out by local authority personnel group Socpo revealed exclusively to Personnel Today shows a history of favouring older employees for redundancy and ten years of staff cuts, caused by funding constraints, is leaving them without leaders and wiping their corporate memory.

Terry Gorman, president of Socpo and assistant chief executive at Nottinghamshire County Council, said the findings are worrying but not surprising.

“The local government workforce has been significantly reduced and we have always taken the safe option of asking for volunteers,” he said. “People who volunteer and who we’ve encouraged to go are senior and middle managers in their 50s.”

This has turned out to be a mistake for the organisations and the individuals, he said.

The survey found well over half of employees retiring early were uncomfortable about it and just under half would consider going back part time or as a consultant.

Four out of 10 felt the process had been badly managed.

“They could have been offered other options such as working three or four days a week,” said Gorman. “We need to be talking to people about this when they are in their 30s and 40s.”

Denise Walker, head of corporate personnel at Nationwide Building Society, and a chairwoman at the Employers’ Forum on Age, said the problem is not confined to the public sector.

“The big banks making job cuts at the moment should be taking the danger of corporate memory loss into consideration,” she said.

Demographic changes will make keeping hold of older workers more essential, she added.

By 2010, 40 per cent of the workforce will be over 45 and the number of 20- to 29-year-olds will be 20 per cent lower than today.

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