SMEs face labour shortages unless they adapt to the ageing workforce

An ageing workforce
An ageing workforce

According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), 30% of SME’s face skills shortages. Being unable to find staff with the right skills is hampering business growth, especially in business services and construction. Many reasons can be attributed to the skills shortages which SME’s are facing: the number of young people entering the labour market as more of them pursue higher degrees. Additionally, smaller businesses frequently lose talented staff to big businesses which can offer career progression opportunities which SME’s cannot.

Many SME’s are looking to older workers in order to fill job vacancies, retain in-house knowledge and expand their businesses. As pension ages are rising and people are living healthier lives, older people are looking for ways to stay economically active while still having time retirement. Extending working life can offer win-wins for older people and SME’s which employ them.

There are three kinds of older workers which SME’s are seeking to employ: First, many employers are encouraging their existing employees to delay retirement. Retaining older workers equates to retaining skills and networks which are crucial to running and expanding one’s business. Many SME’s redeploy their older workers to mentoring roles so that in-house company knowledge can be passed from one generation to the other. Second, many SME’s are tapping into the one million plus army of older people seeking work. SME’s are looking for not just skilled workers, but multi-skilled ones who-can carry out the range of responsibilities which are crucial to running a business. Third, many SME’s are relying upon older consultant- for example, those who have retired from their main jobs but are interested in occasionally returning to work- to deliver goods and services. Today, over a million people 65+ work on a part-time or consultancy basis, the majority of which bring essential skills to SME’s.

Older workers are a source of skills which SME’s can rely on so long as work is made conducive to longer working lives. For ideas on how to make better use of the pool of older talent, have a look at my good practice age management guide for SME’s: