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Angela Kunawicz 4th April 2022

Diversity in the Workplace

EMPLOYEES are your face in the marketplace. So, it makes sense to have employees who reflect the ethnic, gender and age composition of your customer base. In less than 20 years, one in four of us in the UK will be over 65. That's more than 14 million people.

Workplaces need to make fundamental changes now to support our ageing population. Carole Easton, Chief Executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Large numbers leave the labour market due to age discrimination and a lack of tailored employment support.”

Blueberry Marketing Solutions understands that people don’t suddenly lose a lifetime of skills, knowledge, and expertise once they reach a certain age. When it comes to senior employment, Leeds is bucking the national trend, with 82 percent of 50–64-year-olds in employment - 10 percent higher than the national average.

In less than 20 years, one in four of us in the UK will be over 65
That’s more than 14 million people

“Working alongside an older workforce during the pandemic injected a different kind of talent into our company,” enthused Pamela Welsh, Blueberry Managing Director. “A real spirit and work ethic that inspired and motivated younger members of staff. Retirees, who’d been enjoying their well-deserved freedom, were able to contribute in so many ways. “Skills they had built upon over many years in work could be tapped into, knowledge transferred, and experiences shared.” “We recognised real leadership qualities and a resilience that was really quite infectious,” she added.

Christine Knight, 67, is a prime example and recent Blueberry recruit. Having spent her working life in the education sector, she has become a real asset to the team. Once her four children were all of school age, Christine spent two years studying for her National Nursery Examination Board diploma in nursery nursing, covering the ages of 0-7. She went on to gain a BA Hons in Early Years Education, worked in several Northwest colleges and even helped devise an Early Years degree at the University of Chester. “I’ve always been busy, I don’t like not being busy,” the grandmother-of-eight said. “So, when my nearest grandchild started school last September, I felt a little bit bored. I wanted to do something productive, which didn’t take over my life.” “I’ve got lots of skills and I’m great at communicating with people. I thought I could bring these skills to a job.”

"Working alongside an older workforce during the pandemic injected a different kind of talent into our company"
Pamela Welsh Director

In her previous role as Lady Captain at Chester Golf Club, Christine organised fashion shows, painting classes & fun film nights to raise £6,600 for the Countess of Chester Jubilee Wing. During the pandemic, she joined thousands of volunteers in a national campaign – For the Love of Scrubs - to stitch two million sets of scrubs for desperate NHS frontline workers. Alongside her golfing friends, she dusted off her sewing machine to produce 1,000 pairs of scrubs for The Countess of Chester and The Royal Liverpool hospitals.

“Unless you’ve got a diverse workforce, you can’t meet all your clients’ needs,” she added. “There’s a huge amount of wasted talent sitting at home. A lot of very intelligent people are now filling their days with cooking or playing golf. “We don’t want to go back to full-time work or deal with the same kind of pressures we experienced at work before. But I feel like we’re all looking for something to do.”

Older adults are the only increasing natural resource in the world.

Despite heading up several college courses and being responsible for the welfare of thousands of students in her career, Christine lacked confidence in her IT skills. But after some Blueberry training in how to use Microsoft Teams and navigate Excel spreadsheets, she was raring to go. “The staff were really helpful when I had any problems. It gave me a bit of a boost and it was nice to be part of the team,” she said. “I was working on the National Teaching Awards, which was a good fit for me. Having worked in education, I understood the pressures that schools were under. “Teachers have been through a lot. There has been a lot of sickness in schools and a lot of people decided to retire and not come back. “And I understood, through my grandchildren, about the pressures of online teaching and home schooling. “I’m used to speaking to decision-makers, answering queries, and dealing with difficulties. I was quite happy to go off script and talk about things that were worrying them. “It’s about having life skills. You’ve got to be able to get your head around the topic, to talk about it convincingly and you’ve got to like speaking to people. “I’ve always been assessing things, so I found it easy to feedback any problems we had back to management, which enabled them to do things differently or better in the future. “Our teachers have all worked so hard and most of the time they don’t get any thanks. But knowing you might have made a difference to that school or made that teacher’s year by calling them up - that’s what made it all worthwhile.”

Believe it or not, there are more older adults alive right now than in all human history combined. Older adults are the only increasing natural resource in the world. That’s according to an internationally renowned scientist, geriatrician, and Dean of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Dr Linda Fried. UK pensions expert, Baroness Rosalind Altman, said: “The work environment for women after childbirth is vastly different nowadays compared to 40 years ago. I believe we will see a similar radical change in opportunities for older workers too in the coming years.”

Employees need to become more age-friendly and recognise the positive contribution seniors can bring to their businesses. Offering flexible working, fair recruitment, training, and progression, will not only have a huge impact on the workforce but could also radically improve the lives of older people.

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[Copyright © 2022 Angela Kunawicz & Blueberry Marketing Solutions. All rights reserved.]

Written By Angela Kunawicz
Angela is an award winning journalist, videographer and marketeer who has worked in regional and international media outlets across the UK and Middle East, including the BBC and Abu Dhabi Media Company. With a flair for human interest stories, hard news and campaigns, she has also been commended for her outstanding photography and video productions.

Also written by Angela