Our workforce is ageing - what should we do?


Dawn Preece is deputy head of human resources at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. In this, her second in a series of blogs, Dawn updates us on what her organisation is doing to meet the opportunities and challenges of an ageing workforce.

If you remember back to my first blog I talked about a couple of areas of work that we were looking to take forward with our working group. One was developing a draft data template to show the directorates in the trust an analysis of their workforce age profile, and the second was developing flexible retirement guidance for staff and managers. 

Work on the draft data template for each directorate has not progressed as quickly as anticipated. Feedback from managers on our working group indicated that they would find it useful to have one set of data, in one report, highlighting all the key workforce metrics for their area. Currently we provide monthly dashboards for directorates, which include data on sickness, turnover, vacancies and appraisal compliance. They also receive additional workforce information throughout the year such as staff survey findings, sickness reports and other ad-hoc information. Following discussions in the working group our aspiration is to bring together all the information into an annual directorate workforce health check. This will enable directorates to see all the data in one report, which they can use to identify appropriate workforce planning and make suitable interventions where needed. 

Working closely with our trade union colleagues, we have progressed the development of simple and informative flexible retirement guidance for staff and managers. A key challenge during the development of the guidance, has been achieving a balance between retaining and supporting staff, whilst explaining that flexible retirement requires managerial approval based on current and future service needs, and is not an automatic right. Working closely with trade union colleagues has helped us to achieve this. Our next step will be to develop a communications plan to roll out the guidance in the organisation. 

Aside from the work we are doing within our trust, in October I had the opportunity to review the WLG age awareness toolkit before it was launched. What stood out for me was how useful the toolkit is as a resource for organisations to look at where they are now and where they would like to be in the future. It will really help to focus actions in the right places to make sure you are prepared for what an ageing workforce will mean for your organisation and your staff.

One of the resources in the toolkit is the age profiling tool. When we carried out our own age profiling at York, we realised that the average age of our existing employees is 44, and around one third of our staff are aged 51 or over, which is why we are now looking at how we can become more age diverse as an organisation. 

I will continue to keep you updated and next time I'll talk about implementing health assessments for staff aged 40+. Until then!

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