It’s very rare for a Government initiative to have direct relevance to almost every business in the UK. However, recent changes to the retirement age and pension payouts mean organisations need to start thinking about how they will manage an ageing workforce.
Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions have revealed that the number of people aged between 50 and 64 in the workplace has increased by nearly two million over the past 15 years.
This confirms what we have known for a long time: the UK has, and will continue to have, a rising number of older workers. While enabling the older generation to remain in the workplace for longer is no doubt a vital step in addressing the UK’s labour shortage, it will only work if accompanied by a change in attitude by organisations. This includes reworking HR policies and practices to meet the needs of older workers and removing the common stereotypes associated with this demographic.
In the DWP’s recent report, Pensions Minister Steve Webb says that older workers hold the key to driving our economy forward. The stereotypical view that older workers will take time off sick and to visit grandchildren is holding individuals and ultimately, businesses back.
While younger employees have the enthusiasm and desire to learn, the workplace can be a minefield that is difficult for them to navigate through. Businesses must find ways to capitalise on what the over 60s have to offer, rather than looking to just tolerate and accommodate them.
One easy way to make the most of the increasingly wide generational span contained in the workplace is to set up mentoring programmes. This represents a great opportunity for older staff to guide, pass on knowledge and help younger workers in an easy and effective way to both include and utilise the over 60s’ capabilities.
This will cost your organisation next to nothing, and will benefit both parties. It can also build relationships which will help people work better together, making it less likely that members of staff will jump ship.
But as well as using older workers to educate those around them, it is also important to continue developing their skills.
Our own research discovered that 92 per cent of UK CEOs do not currently invest in training and development for employees who are over the age of 60. This is a sorry state of affairs as older workers will be hit by the double-whammy of not acquiring knowledge in line with younger colleagues and the feeling that they have been chained to a truck that is driving them to the scrapheap.
As the younger generation grew up using a PC and are more than comfortable using technology-based learning resources, elearning has become increasingly accepted in the workplace, but what about the less tech-savvy elderly generation?
This is another excellent opportunity for mentoring to take place within your organisation – identify a gadget geek and ask them to impart their wisdom on more elderly colleagues.
It is well worth the time investment, as elearning is cost-effective and efficient. It also provides a flexible course schedule, allowing learners to take courses in a manner that best suits their learning styles and, of course, their generation-based preferences. Unlike traditional training materials, elearning resources can be rapidly updated and redistributed to keep up with changes in knowledge, the environment and of course generational trends.
Create the perfect blend
No matter what age they are, every employee has a preferred style of learning. Some will favour elearning, but others will be more suited to classroom-based training and businesses need to be aware of this. They are under pressure to provide different types of training to more employees in more places – within existing training budgets. As a result, blended learning has become the norm in many enterprises today, providing businesses with a valuable method for delivering training to large and diverse employee populations.
Blended learning expands the traditional role of training by providing a robust set of tools that allow employees to obtain the information and instruction they independently and uniquely need, all within the daily flow of work. Ultimately, good blending is about establishing a balance between the instructional advantages for the learner and the learning objective. Blended learning captures the best of both worlds by allowing learners to pick and choose how they want to learn and affords them greater flexibility and convenience about when they want to learn. This type of training also allows for each member of a business’ workforce to be treated as an equal, no matter what their job role or age.
By developing learning strategies that incorporate a wide variety of learning activities, companies can make more of learning resources while offering employees more learning flexibility and improved performance support. Employees can choose the type of learning that best suits their particular learning style, the amount of time available and the kind of information needed. Whatever the mix, the goal is to empower the individual to achieve understanding of a given topic, become self-sufficient, improve his or her job performance and ultimately support business objectives no matter what their age.
Kevin Young, general manager, Skillsoft EMEA