Older workers have plenty to offer industry

04 May 2006
Older workers have plenty to offer industry

For many years, the hotel and catering industry has been viewed as employing mainly younger people. But recently that image has begun to change as firms start to realise the benefits of recruiting a wider range of people, of all ages.

Take the Marriott hotel in Grantham, Lincolnshire, which has made changes to ensure its practices and policies are age-diverse. You'll look in vain for a reference to age in its recruitment ads, and its promotion opportunities are open to anyone with the skills to do the job, regardless of when they were born.

Now more than 30% of the Marriott's workforce is aged 45 or over, and the results speak for themselves. It has halved its staff turnover and reduced overall recruitment costs significantly. Customer and staff satisfaction have also increased.

Age discrimination affects all ages, including younger workers who may wrongly be thought to lack experience, loyalty or reliability.

The Government is committed to ending age discrimination in the workplace, so from October, legislation banning such practices comes into force.

If you want to know what a difference an age-positive employer can make, just speak to Edwina Goody. She was made redundant at 48. But she didn't give up hope and was offered a job at the De Vere Dunston Hall hotel in Norwich, despite having no experience in hospitality.

She started out as a part-time silver-service waitress, but within weeks her customer service experience came to the fore and she was asked to supervise small functions.

Edwina joined the hotel full time as guest services manager and conference and banqueting team leader, and recently graduated to head of conference and banqueting. In 2004, aged 54, Edwina deservedly picked up the Age Positive National Individual Award. She now gives the students of City College Norwich a taste of the hospitality trade by showing them around the hotel and discussing her experiences.

Which just goes to show, the age-positive decisions you make today can reap real benefits tomorrow.

Age Positive Week runs from 8-12 May. For more information, visit www.agepositive.gov.uk.

Chris Bodker, chief executive, Image Restaurants "They've got more experience, both in terms of relevant industry experience and in terms of life - and in the context of a restaurant, that's much more important than it is in almost any other industry. Experience is hugely helpful in terms of knowing how to fillet a Dover sole, but more importantly, engaging with people and customers."

James Partridge, house manager, Claridge's "You can't beat old-fashioned experience. Claridge's has a number of staff who've been here for over 25 years and they're invaluable to us. They set good examples to their colleagues and are wonderful mentors."

Patricia Thomas, operations director, Domino's Pizza "At Domino's we're already reaping the rewards from recruiting and retaining both older and younger workers. Being "age-positive" results in higher retention rates and a workforce that really reflects the makeup of the population. By taking this approach, we have access to a potential workforce overflowing with skills, maturity and experience."

Wendy Bartlett, founder and director, Bartlett Mitchell "Sometimes older team members are just that bit calmer and more realistic. Often they have more life experience so deal with situations in a more measured way. They've got a lot of skills and experience to bring to a team and it's always good to have a mix of ages. Also I've found older team members can offer support to younger members."

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