Older workers are less confident than their younger counterparts towards job prospects and career growth, according to survey data from a study by the ADP Research Institute, People at Work 2021: A Global Workforce View. The data also indicates employer inertia towards providing upskilling opportunities for experienced workers, which could inhibit them in future-proofing their careers.
According to the survey, only 49% of middle-aged workers (aged 45-54) are confident of finding another job offering similar or better pay, compared to 62% of workers aged 35-44, and 71% of workers aged 25-34.
Middle-aged workers are also more pessimistic about the future, with 63% believing that COVID-19 will negatively impact their ability to find a new job in the next three years, compared to 52% of workers aged 35-44, and 44% of workers aged 25-44.
Yet, older workers retain higher job stability. Less than half (43%) of workers aged 45-54, and workers aged 55 and older (47%), experienced at least one form of professional impact due to COVID-19, including losing a job, taking a pay cut or going on unpaid leave. Comparatively, the 35-44 and 25-44 age groups experienced more disruptions, at 56% and 62% respectively.
While this is a positive sign for talent retention amongst middle-aged workers, it masks problems of career stagnation. The majority (51%) of middle-aged workers reported stagnation in upskilling opportunities since the peak of COVID-19. Meanwhile, almost half (47%) of workers aged 25-34 reported the opposite and experienced a growth in opportunities to develop their skills, compared to only 33% of middle-aged workers.
Yvonne Teo, Vice President – HR, APAC at ADP said, “Younger workers are perceived as having more room to grow in their career, skewing employer focus towards nurturing and retaining younger talent. Comparatively, seasoned workers don’t receive as much mentoring or reassurance because they have longer working experience.”
“We need to challenge the misconception that career development and goal-setting is something that stops after a certain age. The untapped potential in seasoned workers is enormous. A huge mindset shift needs to occur for employers effectively build on the advantage of experienced workers.”
Other data shows that the mismatch in learning and development opportunities at different career stages impacts employees’ confidence. Only 36% of middle-aged workers received additional training aligned with new roles or responsibilities spurred by COVID-19-related disruption, compared to 48% of workers aged 35-44 and 42% aged 25-34. Middle-aged workers were the least confident in handling their new responsibilities, with slightly more than a quarter (26%) indicating that they did not feel equipped to do so, compared to 14% of workers in the 35-44 and 25-34 age brackets. Workers over 55 were also the least likely to receive monetary compensation for any new responsibilities (18%), followed by the 45-54 age bracket (31%).
Yvonne Teo elaborates, “Since the peak of the pandemic, companies have been reviewing their talent development practices to future-proof their workforce. The types of skills employees need to develop at different stages of their career is an essential part of future workforce strategy. Recognising this allows HR to provide better support for bridging career stage transitions, and builds trust with employees throughout their career growth.”
“It’s not enough to just check in with employees to map out their career goals. HR departments need technology and data analytics to provide robust assessments of employees’ unique strengths and growth areas. Greater visibility helps build a dynamic workforce development strategy that reduces turnover rates, increases productivity and resilience, and ensures that employees receive fair rewards for their contributions.”
Read also: Addressing Ageism in The Workplace