Financial Sector Turning Backs On Younger Workers As Employers Prefer ‘Loyal’ Older Generations

November 2019

More than a third of business owners in the finance 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 education, healthcare, IT, manufacturing, hospitality and tourism said that they would sooner recruit a 55-year-old than a 24-year-old, with 35% of business owners in the finance sector saying the same. Just a quarter (25%) of finance business owners preferred a 24-year-old with the same CV. Issues raised by business leaders about so-called ‘snowflake’ and ‘Millennial’ employees included ‘lower productivity’, ‘higher absence rates’ and ‘a poorer grasp of the English language’, instead preferring ‘loyal’ older workers, 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). More than a third of employees surveyed in the finance 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, with 56% of employees in the financial sector stating that a strong health and wellbeing scheme would increase their likelihood to stay with a business.

Health and wellbeing packages are starting to command increasing importance for employees, with nearly half of all respondents in the finance sector (48%) 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, nearly two thirds (64%) of SMEs surveyed in the finance sector reported that they don’t have a healthcare package in place for employees above statutory allowances, with 57% of those without one claiming they don’t believe it is necessary and nearly half (46%) saying they don’t believe or weren’t sure a strong health and wellbeing package is valuable in recruiting and retaining employees.

In addition, more than a quarter of financial businesses (26%) 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 statistics on the attitudes of employers towards a multigenerational workforce. The finance sector appears to be one of the more progressive industries in regard to hiring younger workers, but there is still a preference for older workers, even those with the same skills and experience as younger candidates. Unlocking the potential of a multigenerational workforce is the key to harnessing skills and talents of different generations.

“Our research found that healthcare is becoming increasingly valued by financial workers with nearly half (47%) of employees in the sector willing to sacrifice over 30% of their salary – indicating that businesses should be offering tailored health and wellbeing plans to meet the varied needs of a modern workforce and attract a talent multigenerational 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%)