Like the stability, loyalty and institutional knowledge your Gen X and older workers bring to the table?
Then you’ll want to take steps now to retain them.
New research finds there’s a high probability emerging technology will push them out the door before you want them to go.
Almost 2.5 million employees over the age of 50 are thinking about leaving the workplace early because they worry they can’t keep up with the technology, according to a survey from Multiverse. They’re concerned that if they can’t handle the evolving tech — particularly AI — they won’t have the skills they need to make an impact in the workplace.
What older workers think
Some are thinking about early retirement. Some are considering a later-in-life career change.
Either way, employers and HR pros risk losing good, loyal employees who usually hold valuable institutional knowledge, practical interpersonal skills and significant experience that helps their companies succeed. And that only widens the skill gap.
“As more individuals over the age of 50 trend toward early retirement, businesses and society lose out on significant knowledge and skills that contribute to the workforce,” said Gary Eimerman, Chief Learning Officer at Multiverse. “Our recent survey shows that despite this trend, there are opportunities to retain workers over the age of 50, and even tempt many back from retirement if employers are willing to provide training to help close critical skills gaps.”
And that’s the good news: Many Gen X employees are interested in learning, adapting and remaining productive employees for some time — perhaps even working beyond their actual retirement age.
So you might want to start efforts now to train, retain and engage older workers who are intimidated — or just reluctant — with technology that could be coming their way.
Here are several factors to consider:
Talk about it
Nearly two-thirds of business leaders say the pace of digital transformation is faster than it’s ever been. So there’s a chance technology is set to outpace the learning curve.
What’s more, a portion of employees nearing retirement say keeping up with new technology has an impact on their health and well-being. Simply put, some are stressed over technology’s impact on them and their ability to do their jobs.
And that’s where you come in: Take a step back and get a bird’s eye view of how your organization has and plans to use emerging technology such as AI and ChatGPT. You might need to work with your C-Suite and IT to get a better picture of what’s next.
Then talk with employees about what they can expect. That’s often the first — and most important — hurdle: Transparency diminishes the anxiety caused by unknowns.
Show the love
While many older workers are loyal and embedded in your organization, don’t take that for granted: They still need to feel the love, especially when it comes to training and embracing new technology.
Almost 60% of older workers said they feel younger workers get the priority when it comes to learning and development, the Multiverse study found. They just don’t feel like their employers invest in their future — and they still want a future.
So, show the love. Ask older employees if they’re interested in technology training. Tell them you want them to continue to be valuable members of your organization. Share information and ideas on how to increase their skills.
Train for the generations
Here’s the bad news: Stefan Tams, an associate professor in the department of information technologies at HEC Montréal, found that as people age, their cognitive skills decrease and it does become more difficult for them to learn and embrace new technology. BUT, it doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t learn.
Fortunately, Dr. Tams found many ways you can help older employees learn and excel at new technology. His best advice is here:
- Train and retrain. Many organizations give one-and-done training, and that leads to failure. Older workers benefit most from a few rounds of training on a new subject. Even if it costs you more time and money, it’s an investment worth making for the sake of retention.
- Train in person. Older workers learn best when it’s hands-on, in-person training — not online. Tams found mentorship programs that pair older workers with expert users — informal and friendly — works best.
- Reduce distractions. Tams found older workers get more derailed by alerts, reminders and pings than younger workers do. Show them how to shut those alerts off if they don’t know how.
- Don’t generalize. His final piece of advice is what every HR pro tries to emphasize: Don’t assume every older worker needs to learn like this. Some embrace technology and will catch on immediately. So don’t require training that might belittle them.
Training can improve retention
Now, here’s the good news. Many older workers are interested in sticking around. Nearly 20% who said they’d retire in the next year would change their minds if their company created real opportunities for them to learn and develop new skills. And 40% who are just considering leaving their current job said the same.
“The rapid pace of technological change in the workforce has led to both increased skills gaps and an increase in employees over the age of 50 leaving the labor market,” said Eimerman. “When we prioritize lifelong learning, we are able to boost job satisfaction for millions of workers and fill growing digital skills gaps – thus creating a great opportunity to strengthen the US labor force.”