Avoiding the housing workforce demographic time bomb

Kimberley WallaceA recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) report has confirmed that there are 9.4 million people over the age of 50 in employment. This equates to over 30% of the UK’s current workforce.

In the next two decades the majority of these people will retire and their skills and experience will be lost. The report highlights that this figure is much more significant within the housing sector, where over 40% of workers are over 50.

The workforce future looks even bleaker when you look at other related sectors from where candidates may be attracted. Taking social and health organisations as an example, the CIPD and the International Longevity Centre warn they will be particularly affected, with over 1.5 million workers over the age of 50. Generally workers in these jobs can struggle to work until retirement anyway due to the physical demands of their jobs. Findings from a CBI Housing Britain report also highlight the ageing workforce within the construction industry, which expects to see over 410,000 workers retire within the next five years.

Looking longer term with a smaller talent pool available, power within the recruitment market could well tip in the favour of prospective candidates rather than employers. This would be a different situation to the one Housing organisations (and their recruitment practices) are used to currently.

All this information leads to the inevitable conclusions that the housing sector may experience difficulties in maintaining a sufficient and sustainable workforce in the not too distant future.

With this in mind, housing organisations should be prioritising the development of their retention, attraction and training processes. There are many ways in which organisations can support the growth and maintenance of a healthy workforce:

  • Developing succession plans; to focus on the career development of current workers, to plan departmental structures in the event of change, reducing leaving risks and developing retention plans.
  • Mentoring schemes; developing a long term relationship on a one to one basis with employees who may exhibit great potential but lack experience, knowledge, opportunity or understanding to prepare them for future roles. Clutterbuck (2004) evidences the benefits of mentoring; employee development, networking, wider influence, employee engagement and job satisfaction.
  • Training and Development; investing further in staff training can develop staff skills and expertise to make your key performers the leaders of tomorrow
  • Apprenticeships; only 15% of UK employers offer apprenticeships. The Government may offer grants of up to £1,500 to smaller organisations offering apprenticeships to those aged between 16 and 24 years of age. Developing an apprenticeship programme could be a simple way to bring in new and younger staff and benefit from Government grants.
  • Flexible working options; adopting alternative working time options could enable older workers (who wish to reduce their working time or commitment) to continue working for longer. Organisations could consider reduced hours, job shares, working from home, stepping down, consultancy and contract working as options.
  • Remuneration packages; organisations should consider the attractiveness of their remuneration packages in order to gain a strong foothold within the recruitment market and build a reputation as an employer of choice.
  • Accreditations; gaining accreditations such as Investors In People (IIP) or Two Ticks (disability accreditation), could further cement an organisations reputation as an employer of choice, increasing the organisations attractiveness to prospective candidates.

In summary, housing organisations should be thinking strategically and longer term about their workforce planning and the composition of their labour force. If there is failure to plan for the future, organisations could face losing a large proportion of their employees and with it all their skills and expertise over a relatively short timeframe.

Altair provides HR and Organisational Excellence consultancy services for housing sector clients across the UK and Ireland. To find out more, or if you have any HR needs that you would like to discuss, please contact Michael Appleby on 07545 314 749 / michael.appleby@altairltd.co.uk or Kimberley Wallace on 07585 954 218 / kimberley.wallace@altairltd.co.uk.