Fulfilling work: What do older workers value about work and why?

Newsletter articles

20 Jul 2017

HR Insight Issue 24

Fulfilling workThis recent IES report for the Centre for Ageing Better shows that many of the things that make work fulfilling for older people are universal.

They want work that is personally meaningful, flexible, accommodating, intellectually stimulating, sociable and age-inclusive. Older workers are more likely to stay in work if they think that it matters, that their employer supports them and that their needs are taken seriously. Professional and career development and informal and vocational training are also highly sought-after.

Therefore, principles for effective management of older workers are very similar to managing staff of any age. Nevertheless, some factors are particularly important: 

  • Access to flexible or reduced working hours, workplace adjustments, or part-time working to accommodate health needs or caring, as health has the biggest influence on their decision to remain in the labour market.
  • Being part of an organisation with a vision, mission and values that they identify with.
  • Responsibility and autonomy in their work over how, when and what kind of tasks they do (especially if they are high-skilled).
  • Opportunities to pass on knowledge via mentoring, coaching or managing others.

However, older workers are not a homogenous group. Health conditions and associated support needs are diverse, so effective workplace adjustments may look quite different for different workers. People in physical work may find automation helps them to manage workplace demands. Older women are particularly vulnerable to dropping out of the labour market if they receive relative lower pay, feel socially isolated or are subjected to sexism at work.

Download the report