Corporate Training & Older Employees: What to know moving forward

One size doesn’t necessarily fit all, or so the aphorism goes. But how well attuned to generational differences are training managers, HR departments and training providers themselves?

There are two key issues here we first need to establish. The first is that, expectedly, older employees can present challenges when dealing with newer technology in the workplace – particularly given the increasingly mobile-focused strategies of many training programs.

The second is even more elementary. On a very basic level, older employees represent human capital. Human capital that is often under-exploited precisely because not enough older employees are being targeted by or catered to by training programs designed to impart new skills. Not only is this oversight damaging to the employee and the company, it damages the national economy of countries increasingly dependent on an increasingly aging labor force. Kerry Hannon, writing in Forbes, has spoken about this process as a necessity, and touched upon some of the financial aspects with a great degree of thoroughness in this link.

The first point requires development of bespoke courses to older employees, perhaps acclimatizing them to newer devices first through an introductory process before allowing them the freedom to start engaging with training material on these newer devices. This is an extremely important point, since newer devices can actually help empower older trainees to study in ways they’d find more preferable to traditional methods. Something I’ll touch upon a little later.

Getting back to the issue of human capital and encouragement of greater training participation amongst older employees. Claire Summers, a PhD in management at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia has stated that this is partly because some older employees themselves see no use for developing new skills, particularly if they are going to retire in a few years. There may also be a sense of embarrassment, participating in programs with a large number of more junior employees.

This is where a greater emphasis on digital strategy can, perhaps in an apparent contradiction to conventional wisdom, facilitate learning and development for older employees better than traditional on-site “classroom” methods. Putting training materials onto tablets, be they written materials, quizzes or videos, can allow an older employee to study in their own time and at their own speed.

This is particularly important because older workers are demonstrably more reticent about taking up training opportunities, even when offered, so any system that allows them to study and learn new skills in a more bespoke, tailored way – much like the fabled “MOOCs” – is advantageous to productivity growth. The UK’s Department for Work and Pensions has published a report that addresses some of these issues, and highlights the under-engagement of older employees in training programs.

Companies in nations with aging workforces, need to be looking to the future to overcome the training divide. One strand of any long-term orientated strategy is going to be training and finding innovative ways to get older representatives of the workforce to engage with new and innovative training methods. Instead of viewing digital as a roadblock, mobile and digital strategies can act as a liberator for workforce training methods, in the same way that MOOCs have liberated aspects of tertiary education.

YUDU is an app developer and provider of training solutions to corporations, LMS providers and training providers. If you’d like to learn more, email us at enquiries@yudu.com

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