The older the better for UK employers

Older people are the happiest and most motivated workers in Britain. As for thirty-somethings, however...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The older generation of UK workers are far happier with their lot than their younger counterparts, according to the latest UK Working Nation report from Vodafone. The research found that seven out of ten workers aged 50 or over said they were fulfilled in their jobs - which is 20% more than the equivalent figure for 25-31 year-olds. And the oldest category of all, those aged 65 or over, are the happiest of all: they reported satisfaction levels of more than 90%, with 97% saying they felt ‘enabled’ in their jobs. Admittedly we’d be happy too if we were that close to retirement, but it’s still a remarkable stat.

One of the reasons for this is that older workers have less other stuff on their plate. According to the research, this silver cohort reported a ‘second burst’ of working life once they’ve seen off the pressures of family life, which has made them more relaxed at work and increased their job satisfaction. In fact, more than half of them say they go to work ‘to express a skill, talent or passion’ – a figure that drops to one in three for the working population as a whole. All of which is good news for employers at a time when people are working longer than ever and age discrimination laws are getting tighter – turns out that your older staff will probably be the lowest-maintenance...

But there’s a flipside to all this. The research also found that some members of the younger generation are getting more and more miserable – when respondents were asked to identify their negative feelings about work, the 31-35 year-old age bracket topped the polls in every category: 59% feel undervalued, 49% unfulfilled and 43% demotivated. Apparently outside pressures like family life and the drive to make it big by 35 are usually to blame for this mid-career depression – which as Vodafone points out, seems to be happening a lot earlier than it used to.

So what does all this mean for the much-vaunted Generation Y, the subject of our recent Work 2.0 feature (‘a disruptive generation, which through its attitudes and behaviours would have a significant and lasting impact on the future of work’ as our research partner FreshMinds put it). Well, the evidence suggests that as they start hitting their thirties they’re going to lose a lot of their enthusiasm – so employers are going to have to work hard to keep them interested.

Or of course, they could take a more radical approach and just sack anyone under the age of 50. It might not please the age discrimination lobby, but at least you'll be surrounded by happier people while you're waiting to get sued.


In today's bulletin:
Centrica predicts rocketing prices
John Lewis tells retail of cheer
The older the better for UK employers
Leadership Week: MT meets Shaa Wasmund
Lessons in delivering the goods, from YouTube  

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