Just 14 per cent of UK managers consider their organisation well-prepared to cope with an ageing workforce, despite the impending abolition of the Default Retirement Age (DRA) and the fact that a third of UK workers will be aged over 50 by 2020. This is the main finding of new joint research published today by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

More than a third of the respondents (34 per cent) taking part in the Managing an Ageing Workforce research also claim board-level recognition of ageing workforce issues is non-existent, despite the fact that the vast majority (93 per cent) see value in retaining the knowledge and experience of older workers. Only 11 per cent suggested older workers cost their organisation more money. The report argues that the lack of board-level recognition means supportive policies are not in place and managers on the front-line do not receive adequate training or support for managing older workers.

On top of this, almost half of managers are not well-informed of their organisation’s retirement policies (43%) and there is a perception that it is hard for younger employees to manage older people (59%). Respondents also claim that age discrimination still exists, with 40 per cent having experienced it at some stage in their careers. A similar number (41 per cent) state that their workplaces are not age diverse.

The report argues that the failure of UK business leaders to adapt to an ageing workforce, despite impending changes to legislation and the proposed abolition of the DRA, is putting the future success of their businesses at risk.

Responding to the report, CMI’s director of policy and research, Petra Wilton, said: “The age profile of the UK workforce is changing, yet UK businesses are woefully underprepared for the impact this will have on their business. This latest research makes it clear that those at senior level in particular are failing to take the issue seriously and that discrimination is still too frequent. If action isn’t taken, employees who are in the 50+ age bracket will feel undervalued and will have no incentive to carry on working beyond normal retirement age. The loss of their talents and considerable experience by businesses not prepared to adapt is reckless in the extreme.”

Dianah Worman, CIPD’s diversity adviser, said: “In difficult economic times businesses are not galvanising the talent and skills available to help them perform more competitively. Employers will need to keep on their toes to respond appropriately to the phasing out of the DRA next year, which will have widespread implications. Clearly businesses already recognise the value of older workers, but this knowledge needs to be matched with appropriate action. We know from this latest research that managers aren’t being supported or trained appropriately in the management of older workers, for example, but it is also apparent that the needs and preferences of older workers have to be better addressed.”

There is widespread recognition too that managing an older workforce presents UK managers with specific challenges. In an effort to help employers address the challenges of managing an ageing workforce, CMI/CIPD is calling on those at senior level to take the issue more seriously and has created a series of recommendations for action which they should follow, including:

• Ensuring that the entire senior team is aware of how an ageing workforce impacts on the available talent pool, the organisation’s approach towards recruitment and the changing legal landscape
• Reviewing training and development opportunities for line managers, to ensure they are up to date with changes to retirement policies and are given training to help them handle age-related issues in an appropriate manner and get the best from older staff
• Sharing information about the organisation’s response to the ageing population with all employees and making sure that awareness of the changes to legislation governing older workers is high, particularly among decision makers

As well as the recommendations, CMI and CIPD have launched guides that contain advice and practical information on how to manage an older workforce. Visit www.managers.org.uk/ageing for CMI guidance and www.cipd.co.uk/subjects/dvsequl/_retirement_practice_guidance for CIPD guidance.