The focus should be on developing inclusive training methodologies
Older workforce brings years of experience to the table. By ignoring their training needs companies are losing out on a great resource pool.
Companies tend to invest on the employees that may turn out to be useful for them. When observed carefully it is seen that the older workforce (mainly boomers) usually do not get the training advantage. There are reasons for this reluctance. Companies see no point in training people who wouldn’t be with the organization for long. A 2011 UK survey, ‘Employee outlook: focus on an ageing workforce’ revealed that ageing employees are often neglected by their employers when it comes to training. Based on the answers of 285,000 respondents, the study found that older workers are more likely to believe on the effectiveness on the trainings (56 per cent). This finding puts a question mark on the common belief that the older workforce is less interested in training and development.
When it comes to training older employees, there are many apprehensions:
1. It is believed that they are slow in adapting to new technology; hence, not many companies make sufficient efforts to enrich their older and experienced workforce. Even if they are trained, the training modules are not designed as per their needs and requirements.
2. Trainings are seen as an investment exercise. Companies tend to see more benefit in training younger people. It is assumed that they remain around for a longer time. The fact is, this logic doesn’t hold any ground. In present scenario, younger generation doesn’t stick around in a company for long. So, in any case the best value a company can reap from training a younger employee might be for three-four years or so. On the contrary, boomers are more stable in their job.
3. They are seen as less productive as compared to the younger workforce. Again, this reflects a biased view. Older, and thus more experienced, employees can contribute a lot by sharing their experience with the younger employees. Productivity of both the workforces cannot be compared against similar parameters. Though it is fine to have a balance of experienced and young blood, it doesn’t mean that only the younger people should be trained well.
What to do?
Multi-generational workforce is a reality of time. Ignoring older generation is not the solution. However, the focus should be on developing inclusive training methodologies. It is necessary to know where your workforce falls. In her article on the globe and mail website, Ivor Tossel writes, “Different generations respond better to different learning techniques is distinct from the material itself, and there’s no reason to shy away from teaching older workers new technology skills.”
The most essential thing is to have faith in the capability of the older workforce and to define their roles accordingly. While the older employees might not be that suited for a role that requires too much of leg-work, their experience can always be of great help to the younger employees who start their career from on-ground assignments. In her article titled Training the Older Worker, Laura Walter quotes Janet Winner, manager of instruction design for Training Solution, “It would be great if employers took advantage of the skills [older workers] have and put together situations where older and younger workers can have a dialogue so that knowledge is passed on.”