New workforce exit numbers could indicate a path forward for better employee retention

With employees over 50 leaving the workforce en masse, business leaders must take steps to reassess their approach to workforce management

AS businesses face a looming recession armed with a UK workforce that has shrunk by more than one million people, largely due to workers choosing early retirement, business leaders face their most challenging post-pandemic period. According to UKG, a leading provider of HR, payroll, and workforce management solutions for all people, to successfully manage these new threats and risks, organisations must be agile and flexible to meet new challenges head-on. 

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), those aged 50 and over saw the most significant increase of inactive people among all age groups since the start of the pandemic. In addition, the number of people aged 50 to 70 who moved from economic activity to inactivity between the second and third quarters of 2021 was 87,000 higher than in the same period in 2019.

Parallel to this, the UK unemployment rate sits at less than 4%, and job vacancies are at record highs. Such circumstances present a clear need to not only manage existing resources effectively and expand the workforce, but also entice early retirees back to work.

“Many industries are still suffering the effects of the pandemic and the current economic pressures show no sign of subsiding,” said Liam McNeill, vice president, EMEA at UKG. “With a recession on the horizon, business leaders must assess their current workforce – which are largely Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X – and leverage modern technology to empower employees and managers as part of their retention strategies. 

By automating their workforce management strategy and accessing insights that can provide a better understanding of the workforce, business leaders can make timely, accurate, and company-specific decisions to help solve critical HR issues such as absence, shift scheduling, or gauging employee morale. Successfully leveraging these tools requires a complete understanding of overall business objectives, strategies, and how these two channels align within your company. This means that you can make practical and forward-thinking decisions that help the business and its employees.

McNeill continued, “with employees over 50 years of age seemingly running to the retirement door, HR leaders must carefully consider the diverse needs of their employees and the varying approaches to work and life. This includes allowing your people to manage their schedules and easily communicate with managers and teammates to better meet work-life balance via technology – something we like to call life-work technology – which contributes to a better employee experience and boosts the overall engagement at your organisation.”

Of those leavers surveyed by the ONS, many cited feeling undervalued, seeking a change of lifestyle due in part to caring responsibilities, or simply becoming disillusioned with work.

McNeill added, “the modern employee is yearning for an employer who values them at work and respects their life outside of work. Regardless of what generation an employee is from, we all have non-work responsibilities and want to be present for them. The ONS study survey further proved this, and if more employers leveraged modern HR technology such as a leave management software as a way to meet these needs it’s possible to see better talent retention and greater employee engagement. There is work to be done in creating a welcoming workplace that successfully meets the needs of all employees regardless of age. Today’s employers must strive create a workplace culture where employees, young and old, feel supported, inspired, and empowered to enjoy life in and outside of work.”

Alongside this, these tools facilitate enhanced communication between employer and employee, gather critical data on employee sentiment, allow employees to provide anonymous feedback and champion the employee voice. “Data analytics tools for employee engagement are instrumental in helping organisations understand different generations’ desires and expectations. These technologies offer employers insight into the needs of every employee and can be the crucial difference as we look to navigate the challenges ahead,” McNeill concluded.

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