Talent exodus looms as older workers are pushed from the workforce

The UK workforce is on the brink of a mass exodus of senior staff as baby boomers near retirement and feel under pressure to leave their jobs, according to new research from global recruiter Randstad.

A recent report by Ros Altmann, the Pensions Minister, illustrates 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, while the number aged 16-49 will have reduced by 700,000. ​

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If not planned for, the exodus of this generation will cause a severe second skills shortage as these older, and often more senior, workers leave the workforce en masse.

Mark Bull, CEO of Randstad UK, comments: “The baby-boomers are nearing retirement, and we could have a huge skills shortage on our hands if these senior, established staff exit the workforce en masse. This additional squeeze on skills could be catastrophic — especially considering the current war for talent.

“Given the current skills gap, finding the right people for the right jobs is becoming increasingly difficult. Now more than ever employers should hold onto their high performers as tightly as they can, as it can take a long time to fill the gap left by senior staff when they leave.”​

Despite this looming threat, Randstad’s research shows there remains a strong societal pressure for older workers to leave the workforce at state pension age. As a result of this tension, more than a third of workers (35 per cent) say they plan to retire early feeling “like they will not be wanted in the workforce when older” is the major driver of these early-retirement plans. In addition, a small proportion of workers (7 per cent) said they feared age discrimination.

How to retain older workers for longer

  • Change in attitudes toward older employees.
  • Increasing the availability of flexible working and rolling-out phased retirement programmes.
  • Change of role to be more of a mentor figure enabling them to share their life and work experience. 
  • Implementing a phased retirement to help smooth the transition from working to full retirement.

Bull added: “To avoid a talent exodus, we need to introduce more flexible methods of working that enable older employees to fit work around their changing lifestyle demands. This should include making it easier for workers to balance their work around their health, and being sensitive to any need to care for their partner too.

“Phased retirement can also help — and allows employees to adjust to leaving the workforce slowly. Not to mention the reams of research which show that keeping the older generation in the workforce for longer helps them maintain better physical and mental health.



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