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Paul Naha-Biswas, CEO and Founder of Sixley

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve heard politicians and public bodies raise the alarm about a potential lost generation of younger workers.

On 19th April, the One Nation group of Tory MPs called on Boris Johnson to give every member of ‘generation COVID’ a one-off payment of £500 to help them deal with the financial losses caused by the pandemic.

And, in September last year, the Government launched its £2bn Kickstart Scheme, specifically designed to help youngsters aged between 16-24 who risked being ‘left behind’ by the ongoing crisis.

How the pandemic has impacted older workers

However, little attention has been paid to the plight of older workers who, according to a report by The Resolution Foundation, have been more adversely impacted by the pandemic than their younger counterparts.

The Thinktank reported that the pandemic has led to the biggest annual fall in employment for older workers since the 1980s, with the decline among over-50s being twice as being as those aged between 25 and 49.

The drop in employment is cause for concern because redundancy and unemployment are age-related issues, with The Resolution Foundation finding that fewer than two in three older workers managed to return to work within six months. This differs from younger workers who often find it easier to find employment following a redundancy, be it through short- or long-term contracts.

How to build up an employees’ confidence

Redundancy and long-term unemployment drain a worker’s confidence, especially among older workers who may feel anxious about rejoining a highly competitive labour market that looks very different to the one they initially started in decades ago.

As a result, employers who opt to recruit older workers post-pandemic will need to put policies in place to build up their confidence. One way of achieving this is through creating opportunities for success and then giving clear feedback highlighting how their skills contributed to the success of the task.

The value of upskilling older workers

Another way to boost older workers’ confidence is training them in new digital skills that will be vital to business success post-pandemic.

The past 13-months has shown how much of our lives can be shifted online, and, as we emerge out of lockdown, many consumers will likely want to continue to solely interact with a business via a screen. However, this could impact older workers who may not have the digital skills now deemed essential by employers.

HR leaders and businesses can tackle this by offering their employees and new recruits digital skills training to futureproof their workforce. For example, training those who use Excel to use SQL or even Python?

Although this may sound like a short-term financial hit, business leaders should envisage it as an investment that will boost revenue in the long term. After all, new skills power new ways of working which, in turn, leads to new commercial opportunities.

Employers and HR leaders should also remember that older workers bring plenty of skills, knowledge, and judiciousness from their experience. When combined with an up-to-date digital skillset, there’s little reason why they could not outperform a young worker.

Why HR leaders should help older workers reboot their networks

Finally, HR leaders need to give older workers the tools to rebuild their confidence by themselves, and a key part of this will involve rebooting their networks.

The pandemic has limited all of our networks, with social distancing cutting our interaction with others, which negatively impacts older workers who might struggle with networking on social media – such as Clubhouse and LinkedIn – compared to their younger counterparts.

Being visible and getting noticed is a benefit of networking that’s essential in career building. Regularly attending events boosts your profile and can help build your reputation as being a knowledgeable, reliable, and supportive member of your profession. And, in this sense, not networking does the opposite, potentially leaving older workers doubting their skills or aptitude. Therefore, HR leaders must organise internal and external events to help older workers rebuild their profile and, in turn, their confidence.

In light of The Resolution Foundation’s report, the onus is on business and HR leaders to avert an unemployment crisis among the older population. However, it’s important to remember that simply hiring an older worker isn’t enough. HR leaders must give these workers – many of whom have invaluable levels of experience and a broad range of skills – the tools to rebuild their confidence and relaunch their career post-pandemic.