What I learned from working with Ageing Better on their first group coaching prototype
Ageing Better’s new scheme to help older workers bounce back from the shock of redundancy provides something different from existing models of support.
In this blog, a senior HR professional shares how the ‘Elevate’ programme gives colleagues a sense of solidarity, a space to work through any concerns and the chance to develop new skills.
In partnership with Unite the Union, I was asked if my site wanted to take part in the first group coaching prototype being run by Ageing Better who were investigating specific areas of support that the over 50s might need as they re-enter the job market after redundancy. Having commissioned a significant and targeted outplacement programme providing job search support to those facing redundancy, I was initially reluctant to agree as I was concerned about duplication of services. But, with the progress that has been made since, I can say I am truly very glad that we participated – and would recommend this process to anyone.
As soon as the first session kicked off, what struck me was how emotional my teams still were about the closure news. This was an announcement that had been made at least 15 months earlier, and yet it was clear that they had not reconciled themselves to a closure. They were all seeking a forum to share, discuss and “mourn” the closure news – something that I had not recognised. In hindsight, I now question the applicability of a formal outplacement programme when the very basic need of listening to the team’s reaction to the closure had not been met. I do think there is a point at which employees need to be lifted out of the “valley of doom” and encouraged to look forward, and the trainer engaged by Ageing Better managed this supportively and empathetically when it had clearly been missed by myself and the outplacement provider.
I am truly very glad that we participated – and would recommend this process to anyone.
Almost a third of the workforce had over 20 years of continuous service – and a cohort into 30 and 40 years' service respectively. GKN had been a constant in their lives. The attendees on the prototype were all exceptionally negative about the likelihood of them gaining full time, meaningful, well-paid work after their time at GKN. They all believed that they would be viewed by future organisations as too old; that they would be competing against a younger generation who were better equipped and that they would be able to articulate any potential transferable skills. I was shocked at what little aspiration they had for the future, and especially how that translated into anything above minimum wage – which is what they believed they would secure financially.
Over the course of the four week programme, confidence grew significantly across the cohort. The style and skills of the trainer are key to making this happen – and in this case there was substantial ground covered in what was really a very short space of time. Several members of the cohort had no email address and relied on their children to do this for them. One of the sessions focussed on this and all of them came away having understood – and gained – their own personal email address. Learning that some recruitment tools now mean a CV is virtually reviewed was surprising for all the team, but once they had grasped the need for adaptability in content of their cv and to make sure that they were “hitting” key words, they actually became very adept at this. Peer-to-peer support in the classroom environment was actively encouraged, and the participants helped and motivated each other to identify the transferable skills that they undoubtedly have.
As a senior HR professional, I am used to commissioning outplacement-type support and training – and there are elements of crossover here. But I am convinced that this model of focus on the over 50s is offering something different and very tangible – a strong sense that “we are in it together”, a forum for experienced employees to work through their concerns and anxieties, provide targeted support, guidance in areas which younger employees take for granted such as applying online, and improving overall motivation and confidence in engaging with an external market environment.
I am grateful to all concerned who helped deliver this prototype – and proud that we were able to play our part in potentially shaping something for the future.
GKN Automotive is a multinational manufacturer of driveline components, all-wheel drive systems and eDrive systems for the automotive industry.
The views and opinions expressed in this guest blog are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the policy or positions of the Centre for Ageing Better.