The statistics show that many in the 50-retirement generation find it difficult to find work and progress their careers. But in fact older workers are productive and effective – they have unique abilities and strengths which make them a real asset in the workplace. And there is strong evidence to support employing older workers too.
In this blog, New Middle Age takes a look at the Unique Selling Points of older workers.
Our 50s may be our most productive decade at work
It may be a surprise, but there is good evidence that economic productivity at work peaks in our 50s. So not employing workers after 50 sacrifices productive potential for both business and the economy.
- A growing number of studies provide robust evidence to disprove the idea that productivity declines from a mid-career peak.
- Research shows that productivity actually peaks in the mid-50s and then stays at a high and stable level through to 60 or maybe beyond.
- A 2010 study by the German Institute for the Study of Labour shows that labour productivity increases steadily from the beginning of employment through to a peak at age 50-54 and remains stable to at least 60.
- Even after 60, the evidence suggests that productivity can remain high, although more data and analysis is needed to confirm this trend.
- The German Institute for the Study of Labour report can be read here.
The over 50s are good at thinking!
We all expect strength and fitness to decline from a peak in youth. But this trend is not true for all our competencies. Indeed, research indicates that reasoning and other high level skills develop through the lifecourse to peak in our 50s.
- Research published by the American National Academy of Sciences shows that people over 50 make more use of higher-order reasoning. They are able to understand multiple perspectives, allow for compromise and recognise the limits of understanding.
- Social reasoning, the ability to get on with other people, also improves with age.
- So people over 50 are particularly strong candidates for high level public and business roles – such as corporate and legal decision-making, advisory and counselling work, and intergroup negotiation.
- The American National Academy of Sciences report can be read here.
50+ workers are good with IT
Contrary to frequently held assumptions, research shows that the over 50s are effective with information technology at work and using a computer enhances their productivity.
- A 2008 study by the German Centre for European Economic Research found that having employees over the age of 50 does not lower a firm’s IT enabled productivity.
- The study shows that older workers are IT capable and confirms that they can effectively use IT to improve their productivity.
- Against the backdrop of our ageing population, this study points to the good news that an ageing workforce can support technological progress.
- The German Centre for European Economic Research report can be read here.
We all lose out if we lose over 50s from the workforce
Older workers have clear productive potential and demonstrated ability to capitalise on technological developments.
- If businesses fail to retain, recruit and develop workers over the age of 50, they risk losing comparative advantage and potential profit.
- At the national level, we risk not realising our full productive potential for economic growth.
- It has been estimated that halving the employment gap between older workers and those in their 40s could boost current annual GDP by between 1 and 3 per cent.
The evidence is clear – older workers are productive and effective. And at a time when the statistics point to declining productivity in the UK workforce as a whole – and a resultant decline in real wages – it is surely all the more important to take on board the productive potential of the ‘older’ workforce. You can read more on the website here.
The 50-retirement generation are an asset in the workplace – let’s put them to work!