HR sector faces retention tensions as age conscious workers quit early
According to new research from Randstad, the HR profession is on the verge of a talent crisis because workers feel pressured to leave the profession once they reach state pension age.
Randstad conducted a poll of HR workers across the UK and found that half (50%) of those employed in the sector feel that there is “some pressure” on older workers to leave once they reach pension age, while a further 37% of HR workers believe there is “significant pressure” on them to do so. In total, 87% of human resources employees believe they are being pressured out of their role past the state pension age – the largest proportion of any sector.
Almost half of HR workers (47%) believe the age-related pressure they are experiencing will force them to retire earlier than they would otherwise wish. Randstad found that more than a third (34%) of human resources professionals plan to do so because they feel that they will not be wanted in the workforce after reaching pension age, while a further 13% worry about age discrimination they could receive as an older, senior worker, so would rather leave before then.
The problem is compounded by a recent study by the Pensions Minister, Ros Altman, which shows that, by 2022, the number of people in the workforce aged 50 to state pension age will have risen by 3.7 million to 13.8 million and the number aged 16-49 will have reduced by 700,000. This means that the HR profession could be looking at a significant talent shortfall over the next few years, as older, and often more senior, workers leave the workforce en masse because they feel they are not wanted – or needed – once they reach pension age, when often the opposite is the case, Randstad says.
Sally Cleary, managing director of Randstad In-House Services, commented, “Well-versed at finding the right people the right jobs, the HR profession is struggling to keep its own, more senior employees in the right jobs. The large number of UK workers who will reach pension age over the next few years, combined with a feeling among many in HR that they are no longer wanted past pension age, could create a skills crisis in the profession. There is a genuine risk that many of the most skilled and experienced HR professionals working in organisations big and small across the UK could quit their roles when they still have plenty to offer their employers – simply because they feel they have to. You don’t need to be in HR to know that this is a serious problem that needs to be urgently addressed.”
Those employed in the sales & marketing sector, alongside professional services workers, also feel unwanted past pension age.
The different skill-sets demanded by each sector can go some way in explaining why certain sectors may be perceived by those that work in them as having a less tolerant environment towards more senior workers. Sales & marketing, for example, has traditionally been considered a very fast-paced career, with employees in the sector often having to manage several different tasks simultaneously, and on very tight deadlines. As a result, Randstad says, those working in the profession may feel that once they reach a certain age they are “too slow” to continue working in the profession and so opt to leave.
Meanwhile, those working in the transport sector may be under comparatively less pressure to quit once they reach pension age than their peers in other sectors due to the more routine nature of the work, according to Randstad.
When HR workers were asked what changes would persuade them to stay in the workforce longer, the opportunity for them to be able to change their role to one which was more focused around mentoring proved the most popular, with exactly half (50%) of HR workers opting for it – the highest proportion of any profession.
The availability of phased retirement to help smooth the transition from working to full retirement was also a popular option among human resources professionals, with 40% of respondents saying this would help keep them in the workforce longer. Introducing flexible working schemes were cited by 32% of respondents, while more than a quarter (29%) answered that being able to partake in re-training schemes would help alleviate some of the pressure they currently feel and help them work past pension age.
Overall, those working in HR were the most open of all professions to remain in their roles past state pension age, provided the right workplace support was in place. Less than one-twentieth (3%) of respondents said that no change to their working environment would be enough to convince them to stay in their role after they reached pension age – well below the average across all sectors of 12%.
Randstad say that ensuring that HR workers – along with employees in other sectors – are given every opportunity to work past the official pension age could bring a number of benefits. Research from academic Christopher Barrington-Leigh shows people who stay working past 55, and those who have chosen to delay retirement to stay longer in the workforce, report rising job satisfaction levels. Those who do stay in the workforce feel very satisfied in their career.
Cleary concluded, “Many Human Resources professionals clearly want to remain employed as they get older and, given the experience and value they can add to their respective organisations, employers should certainly do everything they can to accommodate this wish. Subtly changing the role of those who have reached pension age is one way of doing just that.
“Allowing senior workers to embrace a more pastoral role, for example, is one way of harnessing their experience in order to guide more junior workers. In addition, offering flexible working opportunities to pension-age employees is a good way of encouraging them to remain in the organisation – and so continue adding value – while respecting the fact they should be allowed to enjoy some of the benefits of retirement. Through creative resourcing solutions, the HR profession can turn the issue of an ageing workforce to its advantage. But one thing is clear – the status quo is not an option.”