As people become more health-conscious and with better healthcare and medical advances, a higher life expectancy is a new reality, globally.
Companies need to understand what this means for them and come to accept and value of an older worker.
They need to rethink their HR policies and put in place systems and processes to leverage the strengths and potential of an older workforce.
Did you know that from an economic perspective, an older worker is a person with more than 15 years of experience, regardless of age?
According to a recent study conduced by the French Association “A Compétence Egale” (which fights against discrimination in companies) an employee is considered to be an older worker from the age of 49.6.
Despite this numbers, it is important to note that the definition can vary depending on the company, the sector, the country and the position of the Recruiter or Candidate –perhaps we can be more generous with an average of 52.7 years.
While France’s employment rate for the seniors has been steadily increasing, it remains low compared to other European countries, particularly in the over 60 age group.
For a European average of 60.5% at the beginning of 2023, the employment rates of older people vary from 43.8% in Romania to almost 77% in Sweden. France is in 16th place out of 27, with an employment rate for older workers of around 56%.
Broadly speaking, we can observe the culture of "regulation by the labour market" in Western countries, guided by the economic situation, the "culture of duty to work and to remain in employment", which is found particularly in Japan, or the "culture of the right to work at any age" in the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands, whereas France seems to be more sensitive to a "culture of early exit".
In a particularly tight labour market, this is a major issue linked to demographic change, as people in their fifties represent the main pool of available labour. This raises the question of the respective roles of the different generations in our societies, their place in the production of wealth, the transmission of knowledge, as well as the new forms of solidarity that can unite them.
While the French government is working on new pension reforms, it’s relevant to understand how the situation is evolving, nationally.
In 2021, the rate was 5.8 points lower than the European Union, with a gap that widens to 12 points for the 60–64-year-old age group.
During the 1970s, employment policies encouraged the withdrawal of older people from the employment market in order to favour access to work for younger people. The retirement age was reduced from 65 to 60 years with early retirement schemes, this largely led to a reduction in the employment rate of older people.
The trend has been reversed 20 years later. As a result of the ageing of the population, the increase in life expectancy and therefore the growing cost of financing pensions, the authorities have had to adapt their policy and work to maintain the employment of older people. Many reforms have followed with the effect of increasing the employment rate of older people by more than 8 points in 10 years.
However, in the same period, the unemployment rate of this population has risen sharply, with temporary contracts. Several measures have been implemented, such as the Senior CDD, the employment skills pathway, the cumulative employment – retirement scheme and government subsidies.
In March 2023, a vote was taken to create a new type of contract, an "End-of-Career" contract to promote the recruitment of 60+ employees.
Five reasons why older workers are an asset to organizations:
Mature workers reduce turnover and absence costs. Research consistently indicates that older employees, with their loyalty and commitment, reduce turnover and absenteeism costs in their organisation.
Laurence has joined Friisberg from Transearch International as a Senior Consultant and will be based in both Paris and Strasbourg where she will focus on Executive Search and Talent Management. With an extensive experience of Executive Search and Management Consultancy, with a range of clients, industries and geographies, she considers each project to be an exciting and complex challenge, combining active listening with a thorough understanding of the company culture.
She has in depth knowledge of the French economy as well as many international firms including those in Consumer/Retail, IT/Digital, Life Sciences and has worked with private clients, private equity firms and family offices for over 15 years.
A graduate of the Strasbourg School of Management, she has a specialisation in industrial project management, and has developed an interest in international culture and languages speaking French, English, German and Spanish.
Her career began as a Business Manager in an IT and engineering services company in Paris and then in Strasbourg, where her main activities were business development, recruitment and management of engineers, focusing on the success of clients' projects. She then moved into Talent Acquisition, developing a new subsidiary of an engineering group.
Laurence lives in Strasbourg with her family and is passionate about sport including figure skating, running, skiing, biking and travelling.
Over the last two years, the Covid crisis has elicited stark changes within multiple business areas and Executive Search is no exception.
In my opinion, there have been two noticeable structural changes to our industry:
The wider use of video conferencing allows us now to significantly reduce the lead time to a first interview between a consultant and a candidate, or a client and a candidate. Arranging in person meetings, with all the diary negotiations that necessitated, was always problematic and in many ways life seems to have become more fluid. However, this ease of business is not all positive.
I have observed an increasing volatility of candidates within selection processes. Indeed the 'plug and play' aspect of video conferencing appears to result in many candidates committing to the process much less than in a face-to-face as the former requires a far lighter logistical input than the latter.
Some candidates engage in a recruitment process without any sincere motivation for making a professional change. And even if motivated, some candidates also would consider video interviewing a lesser process, versus face-to-face, and so sometimes do not give it the necessary preparation, time or attention. Some may even unconsciously believe they will be given a later opportunity to have a 'proper interview' but actually they adversely impact their chances to even qualify for the next step.
Video interviews can limit our capacity of thoroughly assess an individual as traditional paralinguistic nuances are distorted such as waving, opting for a blurred or fake backgrounds, poor connectivity etc.
There is no doubt that the rise of remote working has shaken up organisations by giving a reduced focus on where people decide to live relative to the the location of the company. This recent change elicits a larger pools of relevant candidates and consequentially a higher quality shortlist. This new WFH culture needs to be supported and lived by our clients - either through their own culture and conviction, or by mere pragmatism in reaction to what is a hugely competitive Talent market.
In spite of all the recent changes imposed upon our ways of working, effective Executive Search remains strongly based on the basics - simply finding the very best leaders or problem solvers for the benefit of our clients.
Julien Wilhelm, Partner
2020: A Year of Contrasts
The French job market was heavily impacted by Covid-19 in 2020.
The country had a first lock down from mid-March to mid-May and a second lighter one in November.
Key figures show a dip in Q2 and rebound in Q3. Compared to 2019, jobs openings were at -40% (Q2) against +55% (Q3). This shows that the market massively compensated the losses on Q2.
This phenomenon repeats itself across almost every major specialism and sector, from middle to top management positions. The same figures appear for permanent and temporary contracts.
However, for 2020 as a whole, the total figure of newly created jobs is -18% compared to 2019.
Job Openings & Candidate Shortages
The massive difference between Q2 and Q3 created a very unpredictable market on different aspects: jobs and candidates’ availability.
After the world stopped for a few weeks in Spring 2020, we had a paucity of new assignments one month, and then of candidates the next. Clients put on hold every project, before opening positions little by little.
Every non urgent matter was postponed, and we waited patiently until further notice.
Then, in September/October, recruitment started again. Suddenly, we were retained on assignments left and right, but still we struggled with just a few candidates.
Were candidates unavailable? No, on the contrary. They were very open to discuss job opportunities. They were curious and eager to know about the market. First contact was easier than ever, but no one wanted to take the risk to go forward. A probation period was simply deemed too risky.
How to react?
As a ship on a stormy sea, we vowed to stay on course. When nothing is predictable, you can only rely on what you know. More than ever was the time to be a consultant: provide good counsel, keep our clients close, engage with them, communicate and give trusted insights.
Actively managing candidates and clients was crucial. As the recruitment processes became shorter, candidates became more unpredictable so we needed to make the process as smooth as possible.
2021 started fast.
We must act proactively. We need to see what's coming: clients are already adapting, and this ever changing situation is our new reality.
As the situation is unusual and unpredictable, we tend more than ever to think for our clients. We must be there for them and keep on delivering the best service possible. We are all making this reality our new reality.