Early retirement 'set to worsen UK skills shortages'

A third of senior staff in UK companies are planning to retire early, sparking fears of exacerbating a skills shortage already affecting many sectors of British industry, according to a new survey.

UK skill shortage
Recruitment company Randstad surveyed 2,000 older workers and found those contemplating early retirement were doing so because they did not consider they would be valued by their employers as they aged. Workers in Belfast, Liverpool and London were most likely to retire early, said the report."As these older, and often more senior, workers reach retirement age and exit the workforce all together, a mass departure of this generation will usher in a new skills shortage," said Randstad.Publication of the survey coincided with a report from Ashridge Executive Education at Hult Business School that found that companies were failing to realise the potential of the over 50s at work, with HR focusing on retirement planning rather than helping them use their expertise for the benefit of the business.The 50-plus age group currently accounts for about 30 per cent of total employment in the UK and, by 2020, will represent one third of the workforce."Baby boomers – many of whom have up to another 20 years left to work – are effectively being shoved in the corner and are frustrated and demotivated by not being able to develop their careers, contribute to business growth and pass their valuable knowledge and insights onto younger workers," said Ashbridge."The survey of 2,000-plus over 50s, as well as HR staff working in organisations that employ baby boomers, showed that older workers are mainly driven by a desire for interesting work, a sense of achievement, pride and being able to leave a legacy. They are still ambitious, want challenging jobs and are hungry for continued growth and career development."In contrast, the focus of HR professionals – and indeed of managers across the wider business – was on developing the younger generations to fulfil their potential, with development for older workers mainly centred around retirement and financial planning."The Randstad survey also found that about three-quarters of respondents felt there were societal pressures on them not to work beyond state retirement age."Shaking up societal attitudes to retirement has a role to play," Randstad reported. "Research from academic Christopher Barrington-Leigh shows that 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."Mark Bull, chief executive of Randstad, said, "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 on to 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."Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the TUC, added, "This report is a reminder of how important it is for government and industry to plan for the long term.
"This planning must include significant investment in the skills and development of workers - both as part of the government's industrial strategy and in the business strategy of any company that wants long-term success."Pensions Minister Ros Altmann said, "Employers should cast aside out-dated thinking and embrace the reality – older workers bring talent, loyalty and enthusiasm to the workplace and have a vital role to play in our economy."Working longer can bring many benefits to individuals and businesses and, with an ageing population, it is important that people do not feel pressured into stopping work before they are ready."For more Re:locate news and features on international assignments, click here and for more on talent management, click here

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