Study to stop older worker ‘brain drain’

5648314030_ab35d19429_oAcademics have embarked on a study to stem the ‘brain drain’ of older workers as they near retirement.

Researchers at Nottingham Trent University have secured €1.1m of EU funding for a three-year project to try and find ways of retaining and re-motivating workers over the age of 50.

The study: Workage: active aging through work ability is being carried out with the UK Work Organisation Network (UKWON). It will involve a mix of public and private sector organisations and will consider workers’ attitudes, their levels of engagement and plans for retirement.

The team will examine UK organisations’ current policies for retaining and engaging older workers. It will then develop a series of new approaches for organisations to trial and monitor how successful they are at helping to engage workers and delay their retirement. Possible strategies include: job design, team working, greater opportunities for leadership and management development, and enhanced communication and participation in organisational projects.

Dr Maria Karanika-Murray, a psychologist at Nottingham Trent, said: “Often when people approach retirement they start to lose their enthusiasm for the job as they only have a few years left. But these people hold vital, irreplaceable skills and knowledge. We do not want to lose these individuals and their rich knowledge and skills base – they are crucial to successful organisations.”

She added that some companies are already tackling the issue of older worker engagement, but many are doing nothing.

Flexible working can be part of the solution. Karanika-Murray said while not all types of work and tasks are appropriate for flexible working arrangements, employers and employees should be able to reach agreement on what is feasible.

“Flexible working arrangements are important because they can help organisations to meet employees’ needs without compromising on business needs. By allowing flexibility in the place, time, or hours of work, flexible working offers a win-win situation which can ensure that the work is done and that employees can meet their individual or circumstantial needs,” she said. “As a result, flexible working can lead to improved work-life balance, motivation, job satisfaction, well-being, and performance and reduced absence.”

Professor Peter Totterdill of UKWON, said: “How we work is the neglected part of the equation when policymakers and employers talk about retaining older workers, especially in the UK.

“If our knowledge, skills and experience are respected in our day-to-day jobs, if we are in a supportive team, if we come to work to improve the business rather than just do our functional tasks, and if we are involved in the decisions that affect us, then we will feel good about our jobs and are more likely to postpone retirement.”

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