Meet David - his innovative approach to supporting mature workers is paying dividends

Age-friendly Employer: FSCS

David Blackburn

HR Game Changer

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David Blackburn

Current role: Chief People Officer
Age at time of interview: 49
Time at FSCS: 6 years

David describes himself as a big personality who loves to try new things. He’s certainly achieved that at the FSCS, where he’s pioneered the age-diversity agenda, including innovative approaches such as Midlife Career Conversations.

I’ve been Chief People Officer at the FSCS for six years now. I lead on the development and implementation of our People Strategy, so that’s everything from day-to-day operational HR to making sure that everybody gets paid. I look after employee benefits, recruiting new resources to the business, and providing learning and development.

I feel passionately about age diversity because there’s a huge population of talented, accomplished, experienced older workers who could be making a difference to the UK economy and society.

Start harnessing that pioneer energy

The over 50s are pioneers and they’re embracing the myriad of opportunities that are out there: new careers, new skills, new ways of working. They’re living life to the full and their passion and enthusiasm are infectious!

We need to harness that energy while adapting and evolving our employment practices. I may want to work for the next 20 years, but not 9 to 5.

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Age discrimination came late to the party

Age diversity wasn't enshrined in law until 2006, quite late compared to other forms of diversity. That could be why it’s had a lower profile than other forms of diversity. Personally, I became committed to age diversity when I first became involved in the Business in the Community ‘Age at Work’ campaign back in 2015.

The FSCS is now actively engaged in the Age at Work campaign because we recognise the value that older workers bring to the organisation. Most importantly, we want the organisation to reflect and empathise with the customers we serve, most of whom are over 50.

What makes me proud? Mid-Life Career Conversations

During my time in this role at the FSCS, I’m proudest of having developed Midlife Career Conversations. It’s like a regular performance conversation, but we focus on the next part of the employee’s journey in the organisation without having a prescribed idea of what that might be. Midlife Career Conversations have opened up possibilities and ideas that we would never have thought about or explored. It’s another example of the importance of listening to older workers with an open mind.

Exciting times at the FSCS

Looking to the future, I feel we’re at an amazing stage in our evolution at the FSCS and I see myself being here for some time yet. We’ve recently appointed a new Chair of the Board and are developing our strategy for the 2020s. Even though I’m nearing 50, I want to continue to be central to that for a long time.

In the meantime, next on my learning list at the FSCS is the delivery of the Speed of Trust programme. I’m a licensed practitioner in delivering this programme as well as the Seven Habits for Highly Successful People. The FSCS invests heavily in personal development so I’m lucky to be able to access these amazing opportunities.

New routes to explore

I’d also like to continue to learn new skills in other areas to promote a greater work-life balance. I see myself spending more time at my home in France and less time in London.

If I wasn’t at the FSCS, I’d explore how I could work for the NHS. If I had the chance to take a sabbatical, I would train as a sommelier because I'd really like to be able to speak with as much authority about wine as I do about HR! That being said, I admire both the Cass Business School and the London Business School and really enjoy delivering training, so perhaps a career in academia awaits.

What's Great About The FSCS?

We take caring responsibilities seriously

The workplace today is multigenerational. This is the first time, probably in our lifetimes, that we have five generations working alongside each other. So it’s great that the FSCS recognises that employees may now have caring responsibilities for their children, their parents, partners and themselves as they deal with long-term health conditions.

We support mature workers in innovative ways

We understand that older workers have different needs to younger workers, so we support them with flexible working opportunities, personal development opportunities and tailored programmes. We also allow them to access advice and support through employee benefits or through occupational health services.

Flexible working is central to our approach

Our starting point is to assume that all jobs are flexible. You don’t need to convince us why you should work flexibly; you need to tell us why you can’t! This approach brings major benefits for both employees and the FSCS. With modern technology, I don't need to be physically in the office to have an extremely productive day.

We value mature workers’ expertise and experience

We’re an organisation 'that makes a difference and where you can make a difference'. It’s wonderful that older workers can go home at the end of the day knowing that they’ve helped customers. We’re highly aware that mature workers bring a huge amount to organisations through their professional expertise and life experience.

We know that meaningful work is motivational for older workers

Although meaningful work is key for every generation, it’s particularly important for older workers because it goes to the heart of their own self-worth. At the FSCS, we understand that older workers are deeply motivated by the contribution that they make to the organisation.

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“It’s important our workforce reflects our customers.

Our customer satisfaction rates skyrocketed when we increased our ratio of older workers”

David Blackburn
Chief People Officer, FSCS

David's Career Journey

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David's advice to others

Tap into the older generation’s life experiences

Mature workers have often lived through previous financial crises, so they can share the benefit of that experience. For example, many of our older employees remember the financial crisis of the 1990s. This is immensely beneficial for us in providing a sense of perspective.

CEOs should be passionate about engaging with mature workers

One of the biggest challenges facing the UK economy right now is that we need to get a million more older workers into work by 2022 to ensure we have a sustainable long-term workforce. We also know there are more than 3.5 million workers aged 50-64 who could be in work but aren't. That’s a crime as far as I’m concerned.

Talk about age; tackle the taboo

It can be difficult to talk about the topic of age, but if we could just get over the discomfort and have some real conversations, the potential benefits for people and for organisations are huge. In HR, and in society as a whole, we rightly talk about diversity and inclusion, but age can get left out. We mustn’t under-estimate the power that comes with having a greater intergenerational spread in your staff.

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Piano bar singing, speaking at conferences, studying transformational HR, cooking, travel and wine

Just some of David’s interests and side hustles

 

David In The Spotlight


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