As life expectancy rises and pension provision becomes less generous, the very real prospect of working for 50 to 60 years will make it ever more difficult to stay on one career trajectory. It is only natural that people working for that long will want, at some point, to stop, re-evaluate, take time out to pursue other interests or explore other avenues. Given the ability to do so, many of us will choose to change our role, work less and/or take more time to pursue personal passions in our later working years, or to care for other family members.

This will lead companies to experience an exodus of talent and experience, just as the pipeline of younger people coming through dwindles. Should your recruitment strategy change if it becomes normal for people in their 40s and 50s to temporarily "drop out", wind down or retrain? What about retention: how can you keep your best people under these circumstances? And what kinds of skills will you need to give your staff to help them through this part of their career?

This is the challenge that Aviva, the insurance giant, faced in 2018 and its response was to introduce a Midlife Review programme, designed to help staff to start thinking about what they want to achieve in the final decades before their retirement, and put together a plan to make it happen.

Alistair McQueen, head of savings and retirement at Aviva, explains;

Aviva became interested in the programme because it understood that many of its employees were going to have to work for longer, as average lifespan increased. But mid-life workers might often be juggling work with caring for both children and elderly parents, and their career may suffer as a result. So, in 2018 we ran a pilot in one of our locations and invited 500 people to come along, aged 45 plus; and while at the beginning it was seen as a nice-to-do, altruistic gesture by our management, it soon led to an important mindset shift within Aviva.

We designed our own review process, which evolved along the way. It was initially going to be a financial education piece, but when we spoke to our staff they very quickly said that their life was much more than just their money. It's about health and wellbeing too. And about career development. So that's what we've created - an intervention that we call the Mid Life MoT, helping people to consider their wealth, their wellbeing and their work.

The objective was to give personnel some confidence in their decisions, encourage them to pause for reflection and provide some awareness of what other levers they could pull on when they left the room. We had no idea what response we'd get - but we sent out an invitation and got a 94% take-up rate. That told us that there is an unsatisfied need for help amongst this demographic.

One in three of our older workers told us that they felt age was a barrier to career opportunities. Initially we thought two out of three thinking the opposite must be a good thing, but within this 45+ demographic Aviva has 5,000 people. So that means we have 1,500 people who feel age is holding them back. The other piece of feedback we got was that there is an unwritten understanding within the company that career development ends at 50. Culturally we have created this mindset.

We took this to our management, thinking they'd say: "Come back when you have more evidence of outcomes. For instance, are they saving more? Investing more in their career development?  Or getting fitter?" But to their credit they actually said that there was more than enough evidence from the demand to take part and staff's dissatisfaction with their development opportunities, together with an early indication of a boost in confidence... let's make it happen. So, in 2019 we started taking it to all of our locations: we now have a national MoT service for all of our people aged 45 plus, something we will undertake on an annual basis.

The MoT pilot actually led to a radical rethink within the company, because only by going through this exercise did we unearth a huge business risk that Aviva was facing. One third of our workforce is over the age of 45, the fastest growing demographic within the organisation - but we did not appreciate that until we undertook this exercise.

We also have an incredibly loyal workforce - and the average length of service of this particular demographic is 17 years. That's 85,000 years of experience contained within that body of people. They know how to get things done, who to speak to and how to speak to them. They are an essential asset to the wellbeing of our organisation.

And we also realised that the rate at which they were leaving us was faster than the demographic beneath them: not just because they are coming up to retirement age, but because, within Aviva, this demographic has a very high proportion of final salary pension wealth. This gives the power to the

individual to choose when they leave. They might not need to carry on working, and the pressure is on us to look after them.

So, we had a huge asset that we were neglecting, and the business was facing a real risk in coming years - some core systems, core management processes that we would not be able to run because we didn't have the skills set.

That's when we shifted the MoT from being a "nice-to-do" to a "need-to-do". From a management perspective, it is now a retention tool. How can we retain these skills, make these people feel valued within the organisation? It's still being refined - and that's a core focus for us this year.

Over the next few years we're going to have to put some heavy business metrics around it, focusing on retention, on productivity, absenteeism, recruitment. And that's where the mindset is now within Aviva. For us the Mid Life MoT is not just about altruism: it's also driven by our business objectives.

The Midlife Review: A Guide to Work, Wealth and Wellbeing is published by ReThink Press and available in paperback and ebook from