‘It’s not altruism’: How Aviva’s support of over-45s is delivering ‘commercial advantage’

Aviva has set up a community to support the development of people aged over 45, helping it to reduce recruitment costs while retaining the best talent.


Marketers are missing a trick when it comes to communicating with people aged over 50. All too often anyone over the half-century mark is treated in the same misguided way, no matter their age or interests.

Many feel the problem is being perpetuated by the fact marketers are often far younger than the audience they’re trying to target. Indeed, 62% of people aged over 50 believe they are ignored by brands because advertisers are too young to understand them, with 88% saying brands and agencies should employ more older people, according to research by Gransnet and Mumsnet.

From a marketer’s perspective there is also the risk that as you move into your later years businesses are less keen to invest in your development.

One business hoping to remedy that is Aviva, which is looking to support employees at different life stages through its ‘generations’ community. It is run by two co-chairs and also has a 12-person steering committee, which includes two people from marketing.

While it is for people across age groups, more than 5,000 people in Aviva’s 17,000-strong UK workforce are over the age of 50, so a large chunk of the group’s focus is ensuring these workers are fully supported.

“We recognise this is an incredibly loyal, long-serving part of our organisation,” says Alistair McQueen, co-chair of the generations community and head of savings and retirement at Aviva. “The average person in that age group has got around 20 years of service with Aviva so [that equates to] 100,000 years of corporate memory and experience, which is hugely valuable to us as an organisation.”

There was this culture that had created itself in Aviva that once you got to the age of 50 your career was over.

Alistair McQueen, Aviva

However, the company realised this age bracket were leaving the organisation at a faster rate than any other, which was a “commercial concern” for Aviva as it was losing valuable talent.

Aviva discovered that people’s biggest fear, and main reason for leaving, was that age was a barrier to opportunity for them.

“There was somehow this culture that had created itself in Aviva that once you got to the age of 50 your career was over, and you were plateauing or actually transitioning towards retirement. That was potentially feeding this accelerated attrition rate among the age group,” he explains.

READ MORE: Stop defining over-50s by age alone or risk long-term brand decay

Aviva has trialled a concept called the ‘midlife MOT’ to help curb the problem. Through this, it provides targeted and tailored guidance to help employees manage their wealth, work and wellbeing to ensure they have a “fuller and longer” working life.

Aviva piloted the scheme in 2018 and plans to roll it out to all eligible employees this year.

“[The course is] clearly not going to make somebody a financial guru after a two-hour session but they’re designed to enhance people’s confidence, their awareness of where they can turn to for help and also boost their appreciation of Aviva as an employer for all ages,” explains McQueen.

Pilot feedback gave the business confidence the initiative will help achieve those objectives, while the fact it got a 94% take-up rate from over-45s, suggests there’s “huge demand from this population for more support”.

Building a business case

In order to get buy-in from the business to fund the initiative, McQueen and his co-chair, Aviva senior legal council Andrea Woodhouse, initially needed to prove it would help reduce attrition, hence the trial. However, the pilot was such a success it was given the go-ahead before that could be proved, and is being rolled out across the business this year.

“The fact we had a 94% take-up rate, that we measured people’s views before and after the session, that we saw a 10% upturn in confidence, a 10% upturn in awareness of where to turn to for help and a 10% upturn in appreciation of Aviva, management were convinced this is something we should push ahead with,” he explains.

However, by the end of 2019 the company will want to see tangible movement in some of the headline metrics and a clear business case for the scheme. But McQueen believes it will be easy to prove its worth.

“Obviously implementing a system like this carries a cost – there’s a cost implementing any new proposition like the midlife MOT. But our business case is based on the assumption that if we could slow down the attrition rate among the 45+ demographic by just 1% it would easily pay for itself in terms of reduced recruitment costs and the benefit of enhanced skill retention inside the organisation,” he says.

“We’re confident it can but we’ll make that judgement at the end of 2019.”

In addition to the generations community, Aviva runs communities for ability, balance, carers, origins and pride, which are open to all employees to ensure anyone working at the company feels represented.

Like all the communities, McQueen is clear the generations initiative is not about charity as real business benefits can be achieved from supporting staff in their more senior years.

“We believe there is a commercial advantage for organisations that can demonstrate themselves as being a home for everybody,” he says.

“We realise there’s significant demand from this demographic [for something of this nature]. If we can come up with a response to that it will [increase] our ability to recruit the best talent and ultimately retain the best talent. Throughout all this activity there’s a definite commercial motivation, it’s not purely driven by altruism. If we can get the best people, they can do the best for our customers and that’s going to be the best for our business, so there’s a method in what we’re doing here.”