The notion of “use it or lose it’ has meaning in the way we exercise our mental and physical health. If you ask any health expert, he or she will endorse that our bodies are only as good as the food we eat and the time we commit to regular exercise. The same is true about the mind. Ongoing learning and skill development is even more critical today as the workplace continues to evolve and contend against different generations of learners, rapidly changing technology, and growing talent skill gaps.
Understanding Gen Z and Millennials is a consistent focus of talent and learning leaders across organizations because of the rising number among the workforce. What about today’s Baby Boomers or Generation X? How do they learn? Are they getting the attention and training needed to embrace new technology and business skills?
The older labor pool represents a proven, committed, and diverse set of workers. More than 80 percent of US employers believe that workers aged 50 and more are “a valuable resource for training and mentoring,” “an important source of institutional knowledge,” and offer “more knowledge, wisdom, and life experience.”[i]
In the 2018 Global Human Capital Trends survey, 69 percent of the respondents rated the longevity of a career in the workplace as an important issue.[ii] As people are living and working longer, leading organizations are developing new learning programs focused on this older generation of talent.
As you engage this generation of employees and guide them along in learning and development opportunities, there are several advantages to consider:
1) Different Generations Prefer the Same Types of Learning – It may be a surprise, but the top learner preferences across generations do not vary. Based on a recent Training Industry, Inc. research report, What Learners Want: Strategies for Training Delivery, what learners want does not differ across generations. [iii] This debunks the theory that while Millennials have grown up with technology, they prefer technology-enhanced training methods, unlike other generations. Regardless of age, a training strategy can be applied to meet the universal training needs of multiple generations of learners.
2) Strong Appetite to Learn – Research shows that older learners have a greater understanding of what they do not know and remain eager to learn and challenge themselves, according to the Chief Learning Officer November 2018 Magazine article, Never Too Late to Learn New Tricks, by Julie Winkle Giulioni. Another benefit of tapping into a more experienced group of learners is that they are willing to share experiences and learn from other generations.
3) Powerful Results for a Competitive Advantage – Experienced professionals have the expertise to share and advice to offer others in any organization. They are mentors, as well as experts who play a critical role in the generational gamut that exists in organizations. Leading companies are taking new approaches to cater to this workforce talent for a competitive advantage. According to a Deloitte survey, 16 percent of the respondents surveyed say their companies are creating special roles for older workers, and 20 percent are partnering with older workers to develop new career models.[iv] What this means is the value of an older workforce has many benefits that can contribute to a company’s success.
When you are evaluating your learning and development programs, think about the older talent pool as you promote cross-generational participation, ranging from Gen Z to Traditionalists, to build the knowledge and skills that contribute to everyone’s success. Whether you are developing a unique new program for the older talent pool or reskilling them to support their lifelong learning, engaging older talent has its benefits.