A global study by BSI has found that employee health and employer flexibility are key elements to harness a future age-diverse workforce. Evolving Together: Flourishing in the age-diverse workforce considers how businesses and policymakers can respond to demographic changes and enable individuals to thrive and organisations to grow in the future.

Alongside appetite for support for long-term health and greater flexibility, it finds that businesses want government support to create the conditions needed to attract, train and retain age-diverse talent and experience – through tax benefits or other financial incentives.

Asked to rank priorities for policy action, business leaders backed tax breaks to encourage employers to invest in employee health and wellbeing, along with financial incentives to encourage them to diversify the talent pool by recruiting older people or investing in retraining, and subsidies for employing workers of different ages. There was, however, limited appetite for governments to formally raise the retirement age (20%) or legislate to prohibit age-discrimination (33%). 

Global senior professionals prioritised structural shifts in work – how, where and when work is done, the economic realities and career pathways, formal policies on leave – over a focus on workplace culture.

While health, flexibility, renumeration, skills training and acknowledgement of caring responsibilities were top priorities for individuals, being part of an inclusive culture and the provision of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) training were prioritised by less than one-third of respondents globally.  

Asked how businesses could make the age-diverse workforce a success, the same was true, indicating that to future-proof their operations they should focus on delivering flexibility (53%), followed by the provision of support around physical health, psychological and mental wellbeing (46%), providing opportunities for retraining or returnships (45%) and formal compassionate and personal leave policies (40%). Workplace accessibility measures, training staff around diversity and inclusion (37%), and age-blind recruitment policies (24%) were all towards the bottom of the priority list.

With the AI transformation gathering pace, respondents identified the value of upskilling and training people in new tools as important. They ranked measures that could enable opportunity in the age-diverse workforce with a focus on providing opportunities for retraining people to new roles throughout their careers or supporting returnships (45%), a focus on ensuring people remain challenged by their work and roles (43%).

“Our working world is changing. Organisations and policymakers have the opportunity to harness these changes to help more people thrive in a future age-diverse workforce,” BSI CEO, Susan Taylor Martin said.

“Business leaders around the world agree that investment in health and wellbeing is vital. So too is being agile and creative when it comes to flexibility, skills, training and recruitment. Putting people and their needs at the centre of change offers the potential to unlock long-term productivity gains by empowering experienced people to stay in the workforce. BSI is committed to being a partner on this journey to accelerate progress towards a future of work where everyone can flourish.”

BSI global head of human and social sustainability, Kate Field added, “The opportunity for businesses and governments to prioritise their people by supporting improved physical health and psychological and mental wellbeing, is unmistakable. So too is the desire for greater flexibility; for work to fit into our lives rather than it being the other way round.

“In response to the pandemic, many organisations introduced flexible policies. Now is the opportunity to build upon them and make them work for the long term. The research paints a picture that change is a critical yet exciting opportunity, making clear the need for collaboration across society to shape a future of work that meets the needs of us all.”

BSI Australia and New Zealand managing director, Charlene Loo commented, “Our research suggests that Australians value flexibility, wellbeing support and ongoing learning above traditional workplace norms. The top priority, focusing on physical and mental wellbeing, reflects a growing recognition of the integral role that health plays in employee productivity and satisfaction and will do as the workforce becomes more age diverse. This will only be more pronounced as the workforce becomes more age-diverse.

“Together, these preferences paint a picture of the opportunity to enable Australia’s future workforce to flourish via a holistic approach to work-life balance, continuous personal and professional growth, and adaptive employment practices that support a range of needs and lifestyles.”