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7. The Secret to an Age-Inclusive Workplace Revealed | Age Pioneers Report

'Attract, Engage, Retain.' The secret to creating an Age-Inclusive workplace was revealed at Age Pioneers’ first in-person event in London.

James Marsh
James Marsh
A published author, as well as a corporate and lifestyle media professional, James works across content, marketing and consultancy.

Age Pioneers is an organised Action Panel across all industries that comes together to debate, share best practice and solve the challenges arising out of an ageing population and what this means for the future of work.

In an extension to the successfully established webinar format, 85 Age Pioneers convened for the first time on 20th February 2023 for a half-day conference. At EY’s central London offices, delegates were treated to an inspiring four hours of insight from industry experts, age-positive tasks they could action immediately and took part in productive networking sessions.

The Perfect Storm is Brewing…

The founder and CEO of 55/Redefined, Lyndsey Simpson (below), opened the day with some stark words: “We are approaching a workplace crisis. By 2050, the working age population of the UK will have shrunk by 25% whilst the number of over-60s will grow by 40%. This will create a huge shortfall in skilled workers – we need to act now.”

And it’s not just the UK, Lyndsey noted, this is true across all Western countries, resulting in a shortfall of 50 million skilled workers. “This issue is not going away. Society is at last waking up to the biggest demographic change in our lifetime.”

The good news is that there are people ready, willing and able to fill those vacant roles – the over-50s. They are healthier than previous generations, will live longer and want to work past 65. The trouble is the workplace doesn’t seem to want older workers. This ageism is denying both the over-50s and the UK a vibrant future.

Founder and CEO of 55/Redefined, Lyndsey Simpson

It is time British companies woke up and made a change. Because as Lyndsey made clear:

“If your business doesn’t have an Age Strategy, it doesn’t have a Growth Strategy.”

Political momentum is rapidly gathering pace. Corporates are being asked to demonstrate their age inclusion credentials and how they intend to get the over-50s back into work. Now is the time to get ahead of the curve.

Your First Steps…

Get ahead of your competitors and become a pioneer in the race to create age-friendly workplaces. 55/Redefined can help you:

Speaker: Liz Gray, EMEIA Transitions Lead, EY

Liz is a qualified accountant and has an impressive career working for EY in Australia, Africa and the UK in corporate finance, banking consultancy and audits. She now leads on partner transition in EMEIA, supporting over-50s as they move towards retirement and re-assess their work/life balance. Liz is a member of the Centre for Ageing Better board and a founding member of the Professional Services Retirement Forum, as well as a founding member of Age Pioneers.

“At EY, we are really passionate about being Age Pioneers –55/Redefined give us the evidence-based data we need to present our arguments and be an age-friendly employer.”

Liz Gray, EMEIA Transitions Lead, EY

How is EY Adapting its Strategies to Create an Age-friendly Workforce?

Liz noted that in professional services companies such as EY, many senior employees leave between 55 and 60. But these are the very people who companies should retain – they are the most knowledgeable and the best connected.

“Our business – and particularly our clients – are not going to gain long-term value if we do not have these senior people on board,” she said. “We need to address this issue of age head-on if we want to have a growing economy.”

These are some of the steps EY has taken to ensure it is better equipped to attract, engage and retain older workers. EY has:

  • Insisted all strategies to attract staff must be age agnostic, including imagery
  • Inserted a diversity clause in recruiter contracts that includes age. Recruiters can’t work with EY unless they agree to this
  • Launched an inclusion champion programme that takes in progression, development, performance reviews and unconscious bias to ensure there is an equitable outcome for all
  • Invested in programmes designed specifically to attract and retain older workers
  • Improved flexible working for all – 85% of EY employees age over-50 say there is improved flexible working and this has encouraged them to remain with EY for another year
  • Launched a work from abroad scheme, for up for 20 days per year
  • Granted 10 days additional special leave – this is important for any employee with caring responsibilities for children, grandchildren or parents, or who is facing bereavement
  • Launched a wellbeing budget of £500 for each employee
  • Placed a positive focus on menopause, including training for managers and counselling for employees
  • Created a financial wellbeing team that offers advice on savings, pensions and financial strategies for the future

Liz also explained what EY is now doing to help partners as they enter their third quarter of life. “Historically, EY didn’t do anything – ten years ago, less than half the partners who left EY did any commercial work afterwards. But these people helped grow our business and make it far more resilient today. So, we have created a Partner Transition Programme and now over 90% of our people have a commercially active portfolio of part-time work when they leave us. We created this programme not just because it’s the right thing to do. These alumni are really important business allies.”

Three Lessons From EY to Help You Reset Your Mindset and Retain Your Older Workers

1. Help people feel they have a career with you – they will be more engaged and more willing to stay

2. Adapt your existing policies to make sure that they are better equipped for your older workers

3. Help your over-50s evaluate their mid-life and think about the opportunities. What are their promotion, progression and training needs?


Do you want to follow EY’s lead and to improve your company’s growth by combatting ageism the workplace? Book an Age Diagnostic Review with 55/Redefined to find out where you are now and what you have to do attract, engage and retain older workers. Just email

Speaker: Katrina Hutchinson-O’Neill, CEO and Co-Founder of Join Talent

Katrina co-founded Join Talent in 2019, a recruitment and talent acquisition consultancy specialising in helping tech, product and digital teams. The company has grown rapidly in four years and now has 250 employees, across 21 different countries. It has won many accolades and awards including, Financial Times Europe’s 1000 Fastest Growing Companies, Great British Entrepreneur Award and The Top 50 Disruptor Award.

“There is rampant ageism in the tech sector.”

Katrina Hutchinson-O'Neill, Co-Founder and CEO of Join Talent

Ageism in the Tech Sector

Katrina is passionate about ageism – it’s why Join Talent has decided to sponsor Age Pioneers. “Every day, I see ageism in tech,” Katrina told delegates.

In some ways, this is a contradiction – Katrina explained that in response to our ageing population, the tech industry is investing heavily in innovative, age-related start-ups. However, that interest in older consumers doesn’t then extend into encouraging more mature workers into their own industry. Only 22% of people working in IT roles are over 50. In the software, internet and gaming sector it’s much worse – under 4% of employees are over 55.

Katrina revealed: “Data tells us that your chance of getting a promotion in tech rapidly declines after the age of 36 because 35 is when you are seen as getting old in tech. Despite the same data showing that older workers are stronger performers, after age 36 your chance of getting promoted reduces by 5% per year. The people with the most skills are considered the least employable!”

Katrina went further: “People say older workers won’t fit in. Is that really about the workers or about the environment you have created in your organisation? Have you created a culture that means older workers don’t fit in, as opposed to creating a fully inclusive culture for everybody in your team?

The reality is that older workers are being pushed out of the industry because they can’t see any career prospects and they don’t see people like them being promoted. There is both conscious and unconscious bias. It makes it a tough environment to work in.”

From a business point of view, this is a poor strategy. Katrina referred to a study by the British Computer Society, the chartered institute for the industry. “If people over 50 were re-skilled to work in technology, the UK workforce could have up to 119,000 additional IT specialists.”

She compared this to the investment made in young workers. “How many years do you expect to keep a young graduate? Maybe four years? And yet the average 50-year-old has probably got another 20 years of their working career ahead of them. What’s the difference in return on investment between bringing a 21-year-old onto training and a 50-year-old? I struggle to understand the argument not to invest in older workers.”

There is good news, though, said Katrina. “There are some simple things HR and TA professionals can do to start to shift the needle.”

Five Age-positive Actions You Can Take That Will Make a Difference

1. Recruit the Recruiters

Hire a more age-diverse recruitment team so that it reflects your candidates. Studies show that recruiters in their 20s are significantly more likely not to screen the CV of an older worker

2. Train Your Hiring Managers and Line Managers

Introduce ageism diversity and inclusion programmes, and teach younger leaders how to reverse mentor when they are managing older workers

3. Revise Your Employee Compensation and Conditions

Re-evaluate the benefits you offer new recruits and reconsider the accessibility of social events for all team members – ensure they are not just for those in their 20s and 30s

4. Give All Employees Access to Training and Rebrand Early Career Pathways

Ensure there is equal access, or even that there are dedicated entrance courses for older candidates. Also, check that your career pathway routes acknowledge the additional skills older candidates may already have

5. Find and Celebrate Your Successes

Celebrate the successes of your age-diverse workers and celebrate your managers who have been successful in hiring and engaging age-diverse workers


Are you in tech and know that you must change your age profile? How do you compare to your competitors? Book an Age Diagnostic Review with 55/Redefined to help uncover the data you need to understand the issues you face and what you can do to create an age-inclusive growth plan. Just email

Panel Discussion: Ageism in Tech

Katrina Hutchinson-O’Neill moderated a discussion about ageism in the tech sector and what TA and HR leaders could do to change attitudes. The four panellists were:

Jim Richardson, People and HR Consultant, and Director at Megella Limited

Paul Maxin, Founding Director, Max Intalent

Robert Hicks, Chief People Officer, Atheneum

Damian Hart, Managing Director of Consulting & Transformation, Join Talent

Left to Right: Paul Maxin, Jim Richardson, Robert Hicks, Damian Hart, Katrina Hutchinson-O'Neill

Jim Richardson opened the discussion: “I’m particularly passionate about ageism because it’s a massive area of talent that firms are just not tapping into. There is a recognised talent shortage in tech – we should have seen this coming. Looking at the demographics and the numbers, it was clear we would have a shortage of all talent. Strategic Workforce Planning is something most firms are not good at.”

The panel agreed and noted that despite the talent shortage in tech, there are very few conversations around getting older workers into the recruitment funnel – and the conversations that are happening are very immature. As Paul Maxin, who happily says he is in the older worker demographic, put it, “I have a long career and there isn’t a TA role I haven’t done – and yet I’ve never had a TA role which has had its focus on hiring someone like me.”

Robert Hicks added, “We have to ask, ‘Who owns doing the right thing? Who owns all the diversity activities?’ It has to be led from the top. So, the C-suite and the board must make it a strategic objective.”

In defence of TA, Damian suggested the sector could use the significant progress that has been made in other areas of diversity. “There are a lot of initiatives that are taking place which can now be leveraged for age-related workers. For example, changing the age diversity in TA teams.”

The discussion continued, taking in the difficulties of discussing ageism with 32-year-old tech founders, what older workers could do to improve their chances in recruitment and the growing importance tech has for the UK economy. These are all areas that regularly feature in the monthly Age Pioneers online meetings.

Katrina rounded up the session by asking each of the panellists:

“What is one thing everyone can do when they get back to the office to help address ageism and make a difference?”

Jim Richardson said Engage: “Go back and have a look at what your workforce plan is for the next few years – and bring older workers onto the agenda. It’s probably not on the agenda for a lot of the senior people in your firm. Start to spark that debate.”

Paul Maxin said Attract: “Have a look at your careers website and ask yourself, ‘How attractive would we be to an older person based on the images, the language and the job descriptions?’”

Robert Hicks said Engage: “I suggest a practical step and it’s just asking a question. When you next go into planning for a new hire, just ask one question: ‘How diverse are our interview processes and panels going to be?’ And just use the power of silence. Don’t say anything else, just let them start talking and see what answers they come up with.”

Damian Hart said Engage and Retain: “Address the balance of the amount of time and effort you’re spending on your early careers, compared to older workers. And then think about applying some of your methodologies for early careers and tweaking them for this different audience.”


How are you going to attract, engage and retain the over-50s? Book an Age Diagnostic Review with 55/Redefined to help uncover what your organisation needs to do. Just email

Speaker: Eleanor Mills, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Noon

Eleanor Mills is a former editor of The Sunday Times, a respected commentator on key issues and was Chair of Women in Journalism from 2012 to 2021. In 2020, she set up Noon, a website aimed at women in the third quarter. It is called Noon, as 50 is only halfway through a hundred-year life.

“If you can get it right for your senior women, not only are you going to find that holy grail of gender equality in the boardroom, but you are also setting your organisation fair for all the cohorts who are coming up behind.”

Eleanor Mills, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Noon

The Rise of the Queenager: The Secrets of Midlife Women and Work

Eleanor told Age Pioneers she coined the term “Queenager” to describe over-50 women who are entering a new period of their lives. Many of them will have faced a cataclysmic event – such as bereavement, divorce, illness, redundancy or a dying parent. And that event has forced a life change on them.

Eleanor explained over 90% of these Queenagers feel they are part of a pioneering generation of women who are different to those who came before. They believe that this is the time in their life when it is finally their turn.

Eleanor also noted that these women have enormous financial power:

  • 93% make all or most of the purchasing decisions in their household
  • Half are the chief income earner in the household
  • For the first time, women in their 40s now earn more than women under 40

The workplace is a difficult place for over-50s women, said Eleanor, because of gendered ageism – they face a double whammy of discrimination due to age and gender. This has led many over 50s women to leave the corporate world. They want something different.

Three Things Over-50s Women Want From the Corporate Workplace:

1. The most important thing to this cohort is work-life balance (82%) – they want to be in charge of their own time

2. Queenagers really value making a positive contribution to the organisation they work for. Purpose and legacy matter to them

3. It’s very important they feel valued by their employer. Status is of minor interest (16%)


How are you going to attract, engage and retain older women in your organisation? Book an Age Diagnostic Review with 55/Redefined to help uncover what your organisation needs to do. Just email

Speaker: Robert Newry, Managing Director and Co-Founder, Arctic Shores

Robert is the CEO and co-founder of Arctic Shores, a company which helps organisations hire for potential. Arctic Shores' approach counters natural bias during the recruitment process, widens talent pools and unearths high-quality candidates – allowing companies to build a diverse and successful workforce for tomorrow. They have helped over two million candidates worldwide.

“Only one third of hiring managers believe that CVs are an effective hiring tool – yet 98% rely on them…”

Robert Newry, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Arctic Shores

CV-less Hiring: A Guide to Giving Everyone the Opportunity to Shine

Robert told the Age Pioneers audience that he believes it’s time for HR and TA managers to stop relying on CVs for recruitment and instead hire on potential. It is significant that two-thirds of people leaders recognise that selecting solely for experience shrinks talent pools and hampers diversity.

CVs are a notoriously problematic area for older workers, especially if they are trying to move sector or retrain. Plus, CVs are not good at revealing soft skills (though Robert prefers the term “human skills”).

“We’re so experience-centric,” explained Robert. “We think, ‘Have people got this number of years of experience?’ It means the pool that we do a lot of our recruiting from is incredibly narrow. But the whole talent pool is much, much broader than that – full of candidates who can create and add value.

It’s what I call the Experience Trap. And it feeds into the job advert which states you’ve got to have so many years of experience in a particular role. Experience can be incredibly valuable because it’s about human skills that you can bring into the workplace. But instead of that, we think about it in terms of years doing the job.

The business case is massive. If we can open up a talent pool and retrain people, we can actually solve this skills shortage problem – plus it will save time and money. We must start thinking about potential and how we put that at the centre of the recruitment process. And we’re never going to succeed if we continue to use the CV as the start of the screening process.”

Three Tips to Ditch the CV From Your Recruitment Process:

1. Get stakeholder commitment from the top to do away with the CV. You will get flack – one third will probably say this can’t be done, one third will be indifferent, and one third who will say this is fantastic. But it must start at the top.

2. Do some training about how to recruit without relying on CVs. Workshops really help HR and TA executives to wake up to the idea of candidates’ potential – and that CV-less hiring will work.

3. Pilot it. You don’t have to take a big bang approach. Find an area or a job role that’s been hard to fill and take the CV out of recruitment. Focus instead on potential.

Arctic Shores have offered Age Pioneers attendees a free download called, “The Playbook for CV-less Hiring”. You can download it here.

Change Begins With Us

Following the session, delegates were invited to join our networking event, where participants and attendees continued the conversations of how we reframe age in the workplace and how collectively, we can all strive to do more to become an age-inclusive society.

Workplace transformation is never easy, but it always begins with small steps and conversations. Collectively, we need to all play our role in ensuring that age diversity becomes the standard in businesses of all sizes and in all industries, to fully embrace the many benefits that an older workforce has to offer.

Andy Simpson, 55/Redefined Sales Director (left).

Rune Gustafson, 55/Redefined Chair (left).

Simon Long, 55/Redefined Sales Director (centre).


Do you need help designing your recruitment process to attract the over-50s? Book an Age Diagnostic Review with 55/Redefined to help find out where you are now and what you need to change to become an age-inclusive employer. Just email