The midlife phase has gained heightened importance due to significant global demographic changes, including ageing populations and increased life expectancy. This shift, along with factors such as rising state pension ages and a shortage of labour in the UK, highlights the need for interventions to support individuals navigating midlife.
The UK government’s “Midlife MOT” initiative aims to support individuals in midlife and is a review for workers in their 40s and 50s that helps them assess their finances, skills and health and helps to prepare for retirement and build financial resilience. Last year, DWP expanded their Midlife MOT programme, which is delivered online and in job centres targeting older workers both in and out of work. Now, companies are also starting to deliver Midlife MOTs for employees.
Phoenix Group pilots a new Midlife MOT for employees
Phoenix Group, an insurance and pensions provider, launched a pilot of their first Midlife MOT for staff in 2022. Their Midlife MOT focused on (1) health and wellbeing, (2) wealth and financial planning; and (3) work, training and skills. It involved a digital self-assessment that produced a tailored report across these three themes and peer-learning workshops to encourage reflection and action planning.
The pilot involved 324 employees aged over 40. We worked with them to evaluate the pilot and provide recommendations for improving engagement and outcomes from the Midlife MOT. We carried out in-depth interviews with 18 pilot participants and sponsors, held a collaborative workshop with key stakeholders and also reviewed the available evidence.
Overall, participants in the Midlife MOT enjoyed the experience and found the peer-to-peer interaction especially helpful. Many reported that it had made them think about retirement more holistically, thinking beyond finances to also include social networks and relationships, or health and wellbeing.
“Obviously you spend a lot of time saving for your retirement, but not really thinking about what you want to do … You’ve got to start thinking about your health now as well because, you know, if you want a long retirement, you’ve got to start looking after yourself sooner rather than later.”
–John, participant in early 50s
Closing the intention-action gap
While the pilot picked up on some potential changes that participants made after the Midlife MOT, the concern – as with many similar initiatives – is the “intention-action gap”. People frequently say, and even believe, that they will do something, but then never seem to get round to it. This is a common problem with training: people are energised and excited when they’re in the room, but then nothing changes afterwards.
Here are some ideas for closing the intention-action gap. Make it:
- Provide a simple checklist of actions, making the first step as small as possible and chunked by the time needed, e.g. ‘if you have 2 minutes’, ‘if you have 10 minutes’, ‘if you have one hour’
- Have participants start completing the first step of an action during the workshop sessions, e.g. opening up a pensions site and creating a login
- Participants create a tailored checklist of actions selecting from a menu of options based on their personalised areas of focus
- Connect participants with similar areas of focus and create subcommunities around these to continue the peer-to-peer support, e.g. in a Slack channel or team on MS Teams
- Send prompts and reminders after the sessions finish timed around meaningful moments, e.g. New Year, objective-setting processes, or role transitions
- For most training, the most effective way to ensure long-term behaviour change is to integrate the actions into existing processes, e.g. pensions contribution planning could be part of onboarding and a standard discussion when receiving a pay rise or starting a promotional role