What we learned from working with over 50s facing redundancy
For people who are being made redundant from life-long or long-term jobs, redundancy can be a major blow to their confidence and self-esteem.
In this blog Lucy Kenny, our Project Manager for Work, reflects on working with over 50s who have been made redundant, and how that informed our new redundancy support service that helps stop older workers falling out of work for good.
Imagine facing the jobs market many years after you last applied for a job and wondering if the skills and experience you have to offer are still relevant and applicable in another job or if your age will stand against you in the recruitment process.
We know that the current employment support services aren’t particularly effective for this group and so, for the last few months, we’ve been working with people facing redundancy to find out how we can better help people like them to find new roles and avoid dropping out of work altogether.
We worked with people in the manufacturing or automotive industries because of the high proportion of older workers in these sectors and co-designed a new model of support for this group which we’re piloting this year in the West Midlands. Along the way we’ve identified a few key factors that have been core to how we’ve designed and shaped the course.
People can be reluctant to move outside of their comfort zone
We know that jobseekers over 50 from many industries are often hard working and loyal, staying in workplaces for over a decade. Redundancy can therefore come as a major blow to self-esteem, and people often default to looking for the same or similar work.
Seeing themselves as having only 10-15 years left in the workforce also means they can be resistant or unsure about the value of exploring or retraining beyond this comfort zone.
People can withdraw from seeking help
We found that jobseekers tend to job hunt independently, adopting the mentality of ‘relying on myself’. Despite this, many jobseekers haven’t had to look for work in years, and new online recruitment practices can be a challenge. As a result, they often find themselves leaning on informal help from family and friends.
Older jobseekers often don’t know ‘what works’ for finding work in today’s society, and end up feeling frustrated, low on confidence and wanting to know what they’re doing wrong. Support does exist, but it often isn’t accessed either because people haven’t heard of the services, or they were seen as ‘not for me’.
Trust and relationships play a huge role. Jobseekers are far more likely to engage with local services that they already know – such as housing services – those recommended by family and friends, and those that have worked for them or others they know in the past.
People react in different ways
Some jobseekers feel a real urgency to get a job quickly, driven either by financial pressures or a desire to fill time. But this urgency can lead to rash decisions. At the other extreme, the feeling of relative financial security from redundancy payouts can lead to people waiting until they are running low on money to take action, which makes their situation more financially precarious.
People need help to consider their feelings and circumstances
Redundancy for those aged over 50 can result in grappling with a mixture of emotions, new options and changing needs. They need to consider substantial changes to their pension pot, changing health, and training options offered to them. It can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate. We know that support to take stock and reflect on available options at this point can result in better-quality, better-paid work or a rebalance of life priorities, such as self-employment, working part-time or flexibly.
People benefit from getting support from their peers
Daily contact with peers at work is an important part of the social lives of many people we spoke to. When redundancy happens people can be left suddenly feeling alone. More often than not, contact with former colleagues is lost, and it happens fairly quickly.
We know how important social and peer networks are for people going through redundancy, helping with wellbeing both through sharing stories and feeling someone is rooting for you. However, jobseekers we spoke to often needed help or encouragement to tap into their social networks.
Training isn’t always an attractive option
Jobseekers who have been made redundant recently don't always see the benefit of training, particularly at later stages of their careers. Training is only viewed as a viable option if it comes with guaranteed work or an interview at the end of it.
Sometimes job seekers are offered free training during the redundancy period, but without help to understand how the courses translate into specific jobs, they often don’t take advantage of what’s available.
Our work in the West Midlands exploring different types of support showed that good quality, tailored, person-centred coaching can help jobseekers ‘feel seen’ after the shock of redundancy. Coaching gives people space to take stock and surface aspirations. It’s even better when it is delivered by a peer of similar age or experience, someone that participants can relate to.
Despite work coaching being a commonly offered service, the quality and efficacy is variable, due to pressures on staff, time and resources.
Motivating, person-centred coaching and industry-specific advice has great outcomes, in contrast to coaching that focuses more on monitoring or diagnostic approaches which can make jobseekers feel like they’re on a ‘conveyor belt’ and that coaches are just box-ticking, even if this isn’t the case.
The Centre for Ageing Better is supported by Barclays Lifeskills, to improve redundancy services for people aged 50+.
We’ll be sharing more details about the project in the coming weeks. You can sign up to our newsletter and follow us on twitter for more information.