Passing on and progressing: the challenge of employability for seniors

What are the levers to recreate a virtuous system of transfer of skills of seniors and employability? How can we use the regulatory and cultural context?
Employability of seniors and transfer of skills
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Senior citizens represent a significant part of the workforce in companies, with nearly 7 million people aged 50 to 64 in France (combined figures from Statistics and INSEE).

At what age do we become "Senior"?

This perception differs from the point of view of candidates, for whom the psychological boundary is 52.7 years, and from that of recruiters, who put it at 49.6 years, according to an Ipsos study skills of 2022.

We start the second part of our career at the age of 45, having accumulated knowledge and skills that it is natural to want to pass on to the next generations. The issue of employment for seniors is a topical one with the postponement of the retirement age to 64. This subject calls for both the reinforcement of employability and the emergence of a culture that goes against the current one in companies. We will develop these two points after having carried out a diagnosis and a review of the current legislation. 

The regulatory challenges of employing seniors

Chronology of pension management

Did you know that the retirement age was 65 before 1982? 

The retirement age was lowered to 60 during the mandate of François Mitterrand. The French employment rate for seniors (56%) is lower than the European average (61%).

From 1993 to 2023, the changes concerned the increase in the number of contribution quarters (which was even to raise the retirement age to 67 years with the Woerth reform), and the alignment of the public sector with the private sector. 

France is reforming its pension system, but what about reforms for the employment of seniors?

The main legislative components of senior employment

Since May 2009 and the Decree n° 2009-560, a system and an action plan in favor of the hiring and the activity of people over 50 years old are in force. There are numerous provisions designed to help anticipate career changes, develop skills and adapt the end of their careers: 

  • The Senior CDD: This contract aims to facilitate the completion of full retirement rights for a period of 36 months (including renewals) instead of 18 months for the classic CDD. It exempts companies that hire an employee over 60 from family contributions.  
  • The generation contract: it offers an aid of 4000€ to companies that recruit an employee under 26 years old while keeping the talent of an employee over 57 years old. This provision even goes up to 8000e in case of simultaneous hiring of a "young" and a "senior".
  • The CDI inclusion: This scheme encourages the hiring of people aged 57 and over who are far from the labor market, by offering them a permanent contract (CDI) with personalized support. It provides a secure framework for employers who can thus make a longer-term commitment to senior workers with valuable experience and skills .
  • The employment pathway skills (PEC): This scheme supports people who encounter difficulties in accessing employment and can be extended, in the case of a fixed-term contract, to a total duration of 5 years for people aged 50 and over. This measure makes it possible to better take into account the specific difficulties encountered by older workers in their search for employment, in particular by offering them reinforced support over a longer period.

We can mention other mechanisms such as the professionalization contract, the VAE or the assessment of skills. Finally, the Senate has adopted the senior index, which consists in setting up and communicating an indicator for companies with more than 300 employees. However, this is more of an additional workload for HR between now and November 2023 but does not provide any new weapons. 

We have compiled a list of the various types of assistance available for new hires.

Despite these measures, and the support of the OECD and the European Council within the framework of the Lisbon Strategy, disparities persist and demonstrate that social protection, employment and training policies are not enough to explain the phenomenon. In reality, it is the manifestation of a culture that needs to evolve in order to individualize each career.

Employment of seniors and transfer of skills : what diagnoses?

Diagnosis of the employment of seniors 

Bérangère Gosse in her article "A culture of ages to be changed" provides 2 determinants of the cultural attitude towards the employment of seniors: 

  • The level of compensation for non-work
  • Inclusion policies or aging workforce.

Thus the proportion of inactivity and unemployment in France is higher than in other European countries. This can be explained by a form of scarcity of supply for this population due to the policy of high compensation for the risk of not working. Early exit has become a privilege to be maintained.

Employment rate of seniors in Europe
Employment rate of older workers in European countries (source: Dares)

An Ipsos study revealed 5 obstacles to the recruitment of seniors

  1. The difficulties of integration into a younger team
  2. Less ability to adapt to new technologies
  3. Its proximity to retirement age
  4. A more fragile health
  5. A higher cost for the company

A few figures to summarize the employment of seniors: 

  •  44% of 55-64 year olds are no longer employed before they retire (inactivity, unemployment, inaptitude)
  • The "pre-retirement" format represents only 4% of this population. 
  • Finally, a peak in the number of contractual terminations and redundancies is being experienced by employees in the 55-59 age bracket, as shown by figures from a Unedic study.

The thought that younger people will take the jobs of older people once they retire does not hold true according to Gruber and Weise's 2010 work.

The explanatory factors are: 

  • The rapid evolution of the professions
  • The opportunity to reorganize teams following retirement
  • The lack of transfer of skills

The work of senior employees needs to be recomposed by considering, on the one hand, all of the opportunities to animate the company's skills and, on the other hand, by providing adequate career management tools.

Let's liven up skills with opportunities from the talent marketplace
Animation opportunities on skills of the Talent Marketplace

Diagnosis of the transfer of skills 

What is the transfer of skills ?

The transfer of skills in a company refers to the process of transferring knowledge, skills and know-how from one employee to another, in order to guarantee the continuity of activities and to develop the professional versatility of employees.

According to Pole Emploi, the transfer of knowledge can be initiated in the context of a retirement, a change of position or even a departure on maternity or paternity leave. This process is also a lever for team cohesion, by encouraging exchanges and interactions between employees.

To ensure an effective transfer and limit the loss of skills, it is recommended to establish an adapted methodology, including the identification of skills key to transfer, the implementation of collaborative training solutions or coaching, as well as the creation of appropriate teaching materials.

What is the diagnosis of the transmission of skills in France?

Today, the transfer of skills remains an ad hoc activity in response to the risks of loss of skills , the occurrence of which is more or less predictable.

Predictable situations:  
  • Retirements
  • Training of new recruits
  • Internal mobility
Less predictable situations: 
  • Long-term absences
  • Workplace accident
  • Voluntary departure
  • Natural departures (turnover)
visualization of skills at risk in an HR dashboard
HR dashboard of skills at risk to better transfer them

The management of skills at risk can be provided by a tool such as that proposed by Neobrain. This real-time visualization is likely to continuously disseminate knowledge and thus avoid altering the continuity of operations and limit the obsolescence of skills.

Solutions for the employability of seniors and the transmission of their know-how

For HR departments, the challenges are multiple: identify skills at risk, organize their transmission, defend the employability of employees in active ageing.

Employability solutions for seniors

A Strategic Workforce planning approach to support the Jobs & Skills Management

While Jobs & Skills Management supports the anticipation of the quantitative dimension of population aging, it must be enriched with the qualitative vision of SWP. What are the differences between Jobs & Skills Management and SWP?

These differences are detailed on our full page.

In addition, the projection of key trades and skills , with a SWP tool, will highlight several key data: 

  • The gap between current skills and the skills of tomorrow.
  • Objectively possible bridges.
  • The trade-off between upskilling (development within a nearby business), and reskilling (complete program of acquisition of new skills).

The SWP strengthens the ability to direct seniors to the trades where the bridges are most obvious. 

Finally, the valorisation of seniors requires the visibility of their unique assets. They may simply not be detected and put forward in the organization. Our article "detect the invisible skills " will give you some keys.

Claire Goury, Western HR Manager at Idverde, talks about her experience with this population.

We often forget the amount of informal knowledge that no one else has mastered and that can disappear if a transmission has not been anticipated.

Continued development for this population

The know-how required for many jobs is changing rapidly, so it is important to ensure that senior employees benefit from the same investment in upgrading skills as other employees. To achieve this, it is necessary to set up continuous training programs adapted to senior employees. 

The different training schemes for seniors
The different training schemes for seniors

Example of continuous development for second-career managers:

Some managers have evolved towards this role for reasons of performance and expertise. These managers then had to acquire specific soft skills (emotional intelligence, team coaching, etc.). Here is what Elise Van der Schans, CHRO at SmartTrade, notes.

Today, managers must once again demonstrate a form of expertise while developing their behavioral postures.

Skills transfer solutions

And if the raison d'être of senior citizens was not precisely to pass on, notably through the patronage of skills or the "live my life".

The sponsorship of skills 

What is sponsorship at skills ? 

The patronage of skills consists in making available skills professional services to a cause of general interest. It is therefore a form of sponsorship where the company undertakes to offer free skills to associations, NGOs or other non-profit organizations. The Admical IFOP study of November 2021 indicates that 54% of large companies, 22% of ETIs and 18% of SMEs are committed to this approach.

For example, at Neobrain, 3 partnerships have been sealed to help those who need to access expertise and structure their future projects: 

  • With "Simplon" to transmit our skills to people in professional reconversion in digital
  • With "Come see my job"for student orientation assistance
  • Collection of books for an association allowing access to culture throughout the world for people in precarious situations 

Corporate philanthropy is not only a lever for transmission but also a new way of acquiring skills. Indeed, 57% of employees who have participated in these programs feel they have acquired new skills skills. The 40 Arkéa employees participating in the program are motivated by a sense of usefulness and a desire to move on before retirement. The conditions to be met: a 12-month full-time commitment or one day a week for 36 months.

Live my professional life

The concept of "live my life in the company" consists of immersing an employee in the professional reality of a colleague or a superior in order to better understand his or her work and to benefit from his or her experience skills. This practice encourages the transmission of knowledge between generations, and is the ideal way for seniors and younger employees to share their experience.

By implementing this practice, the company can encourage the creation of a team spirit and foster increased cohesion between the different services or departments. This method opens the door to the detection of possible difficulties encountered by employees in their work, and thus to implement actions to improve working conditions.

For example, in a context of "re-onboarding", the company Aircall recreated a live my virtual life thanks to the Gather solution. The Zoom meetings had a too "serious" connotation and the solution in the form of virtual reality allowed everyone to go to the meeting of his colleagues in a playful and totally free way.


What is mentoring?

Mentoring is the practice of connecting an experienced mentor with a mentee who wishes to benefit from his or her advice and professional experience. The goal is to foster the personal and professional development of the mentee based on the mentor's expertise and vision. Mentoring is often a long term accompaniment that aims to develop the mentee's skills and knowledge over the long term.

To achieve this, the company must carry out 2 preliminary actions:

  • On the one hand, assess the developmental skills of employees.
  • On the other hand,identify the skills that mentors wish to share.

This is what Neobrain proposes by matching these 2 key pieces of information.

In summary, "live my life" in a company is a one-time practice that allows to discover the work of a colleague or a superior to acquire specific knowledge, while mentoring is a more sustainable practice that aims to develop the skills and knowledge of an employee over the long term by benefiting from the advice and expertise of an experienced mentor.

The opportunity to recreate a virtuous transmission system

The current employment configuration and the shortages of skills are opportunities. It is an opportunity to reformat not only the adaptation of the company's know-how to emerging requirements, but also the culture and practices of capitalizing on acquired skills and their risk of disappearance. Benoît Serre evokes the social aspect of the employment of seniors: often their children depend on them financially, and even their own parents: it is a challenge for work and for the social cohesion of France. 

Today, the systems in place have a reactive attitude, a "Band-Aid" mode, which is not up to the challenge. Even if we see an improvement in the ability of organizations to keep their senior employees longer, the psychological situation of the latter is deteriorating and age remains a major factor of discrimination in hiring. This is what Camille Barbry develops in her article on the prejudices that slow down the recruitment of seniors.

We would go so far as to ask a provocative question: Can we make a link between a shortage of skills and undercapitalization of the assets of this population?

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