Manufacturing Businesses Most Likely to Prefer Older Workers, Says New UK Survey

Almost three quarters of business owners in the manufacturing sector would choose to recruit an older worker than a younger candidate with exactly the same skills and experience, according to new research.

In a national survey, more than a third (36%) of 1,000 SME business owners across a range of sectors including finance, healthcare, IT, manufacturing, retail and tourism said that they would sooner recruit a 55-year-old than a 24-year-old, with 72% of business owners in the manufacturing sector saying the same. One in ten (11%) manufacturing business owners preferred a 24-year-old with the same CV. Some of the issues raised by business leaders about so-called ‘snowflake’ and ‘Millennial’ employees included ‘lower productivity’ and ‘higher absence rates’, with a preference for ‘loyal’ older employees, according to data gathered by the UK’s most trusted business healthcare provider, Benenden Health.

The study, which also surveyed 1,000 employees, found that nationally more than half (56%) of Generation Z employees (aged 16-23) felt they have been overlooked for roles due to their age compared to 47% of Millennials (aged 24-38), 29% of Generation X (aged 39-54) and a third (34%) of Baby Boomers (aged 55-72). Almost half (43%) of employees surveyed in the manufacturing sector felt they had been overlooked for a job due to their age.

However, when it comes to attracting and retaining a workforce, the findings have shown a major discrepancy between what employers and employees see as a priority. A third of employees would sacrifice a lower pay for a strong health and wellbeing scheme, two thirds (66%) of manufacturing businesses don’t have a health and wellbeing programme in place.

Health and wellbeing packages are starting to command increasing importance for employees, with more than half (67%) of all respondents in the manufacturing sector saying a strong health and wellbeing benefit would increase their likelihood to join or stay with a business. Nationally, Generation Z employees (aged 16-23) revealed they would be willing to sacrifice a whopping third of their salary to receive a healthcare package that fits their personal needs.

Yet, despite this, as many as 67% of SMEs surveyed in the manufacturing sector reported that they don’t have a healthcare package in place for employees above statutory allowances, with 25% of those without one claiming they don’t believe it is necessary and more than half (39%) saying they don’t believe or weren’t sure a strong health and wellbeing package is valuable in recruiting and retaining employees.

In addition, one fifth of manufacturing businesses (20%) revealed that they have never consulted workers on what they would value in a healthcare package, despite employees having different priorities depending on their age. Nationally, younger workers revealed that they place value on mental health support, counselling sessions and life skill lessons, whereas older generations said regular medical checks and flexible working were top of their list of potential healthcare benefits.

Helen Smith, Chief Commercial Officer of Benenden Health, commented: “Our research has highlighted some interesting and often incorrect opinions of younger workers, showing the manufacturing sector is the least likely to recruit a younger worker over an older worker, making it difficult for Millennial and Generation Z workers to enter the manufacturing industry.

“We can see that healthcare is becoming increasingly valued by workers – often moreso than other benefits and even salary – indicating that businesses should move away from a one-size-fits-all healthcare offering and think about tailoring a plan to meet the varied needs of a modern workforce.

“Younger generations told us that mental health support is of great importance to them, but these priorities change over time. Generation X workers often have the dual commitment of looking after children and parents so flexible working is valued by them, and with employees working longer than ever, ensuring your older workers are catered for as well – through regular eyesight and hearing tests, and ergonomic offices, for example – is vital to maintaining a strong modern workforce.

“At Benenden Health we firmly believe that a healthy workforce is a productive and motivated workforce and having these open conversations with employees and tailoring a healthcare approach to suit will put businesses in prime position for recruiting, retaining and maximising talent.”

Benenden Health is a not-for-profit society with a UK-wide membership of over 815,000, founded in 1905 to bring people together to help pay for medical care when they might need it. Today, it has a mission to support businesses by providing affordable healthcare that helps keep employees healthy and valued and businesses thriving.

To download Benenden Health’s guide to managing the needs of a multigenerational workforce, go to:
Top five sectors least likely to hire younger generations:

Out of 1,000 SME employers, it was found that these five sectors are the least likely to hire a 24-year-old over a 55-year-old

1.          Manufacturing (11% preferred a 24 year old to a 55 year old with the same CV)

2.         Education (15%)

3.         Tourism and Leisure (19%)

4.         Retail, Hospitality and Catering (19%)

5.         Healthcare (24%)