On the 25th April Joanne Barratt, Managing Director of The Venues Collection and Lime Venue Portfolio will be joining a panel of industry peers at CHS Leeds to discuss career development. In this blog, she discusses the need to ensure that the over 50s remain an essential part of our industry: 

There’s a lot of advice out there for the newbies who are taking their first tentative steps on the career ladder, so I would like to explore how we encourage the over 50s to stay in our industry.

The recent Spring Budget saw the government take steps to address what’s being called a pandemic induced crisis. Before the start of the pandemic we’d seen decades of improvement in the employment rate of people in their 50s and 60s, but that improvement has now stalled and moved into reverse. According to the Centre for Aging Better there are now 320,000 people aged 50-60 who are classed as economically inactive; they are not unemployed or seeking work, so this inactivity may be for health reasons, or caring responsibilities or simply because Covid made them revaluate their lives and they have stepped away from their careers. 

Whilst all industries are having to address these issues, I do think that we have a particularly hard task ahead in the events and hospitality industry. We are often described as a ‘dynamic’, ‘fast paced’ or ‘vigorous’ industry and these are all adjectives that imply youth.  We work hard and we play hard and our jobs can involve long unsociable hours and be physically draining. In last year’s UK Event Industry Salary Survey, only 8% percent of respondents were aged 55 or over, which implies we are losing talented and experienced people from our industry.

How do we tackle this?

The first thing we have to acknowledge is that everyone is different; advice that’s good for one person may not be good for another. Everybody has different life experiences and whilst this is true at any age, I think that these differences amplify as we get older. The path each of us takes becomes more winding, we each take different turns and so our lives become more personalised and unique as we get older. 

This means that anyone in their midlife needs to focus only on themselves; to step back and look inwards to consider what they really want and to remember that no two people are the same and so no two people will want the same things.

Some people in their 50s will be looking back on a 30-year career and thinking “that’s enough”, they now want to scale back, work part-time, and take more of a life / work balance. Whilst others will be keen to maximise the last 10 to 20 years of their career. The ‘empty nesters’ may now have more time to re-focus on their career and put everything into achieving success in their last decades of work, whilst other people may want to take their foot off the gas and take more time for hobbies. 

Research undertaken by the Centre for Aging Better shows that three quarters of employers see older worker’s experience as crucial to their organisation’s success, but in order to take advantage of this experience, we need this age demographic to stay in the work force,

I think that employers need to enable their employees to take a more personalised approach to their careers, to understand the path they now want to take and discuss how long that path will be. This could mean working a four-day week, or not being on the road as often. Or it could be needing the constant interaction and business of a bustling work environment. 

We need older people in the work force because they bring so much. People in their 50s and 60s have more life and work experience so they are more able to deal with the multitude of challenges thrown at them. Experience also brings confidence; they are probably more level headed and have a bit more gumption too.  Maturity and experience can also lead to better communication skills which in turn then leads to better client relationships.  Older people tend to be great at mentoring, nurturing and being able to transfer their skills to younger members of the team. 

I know that my approach has changed as I’ve gained experienced; I’m still determined, I’m still focused and maybe I’m still a bit gung-ho, but I’ll do things differently now and take a more collaborative approach. My background and my lived experiences bring more conviction to my decisions and this creates more respect from my team, and in turn I am also very respectful of everyone I work with. 

People are living longer and expected to work longer, especially now the state pension age has increased and will no doubt rise again. For us all to encourage experienced people to stay in our industry we have to accept that there is no one path. Employees and employers need to understand and embrace the personal choices of the individual and to be ready to create a personalised environment for them to succeed. We need a diverse work force in order for our industry to survive and thrive, and that diversity has got to include the over 50s. 

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