Train So Your Boomers Don’t Get Left Behind

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Jun 27, 2019

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that by the year 2024, 25% of the workforce will be 55 years of age or older. As the U.S. continues to become digital-first and more Americans retire later in life, there become more opportunities for a digital disconnect to negatively impact older Americans. Without the necessary digital skills of their digital native colleagues, the boomer generation can fall behind or be less productive than other members of the team.

So how can businesses implement training that not only serves younger generations but also ensures older generations don’t get left behind in the workforce?

Digital literacy for all ages

In today’s marketplace, almost every company is, in one way or another, a technology company. From large, global enterprises to local service-based businesses, technology has been irrevocably integrated into the fundamentals of conducting business. In order to survive and thrive in the workplace, a certain level of digital literacy is necessary to perform even the most basic of functions.

This is inherently challenging for older workers who, unlike their younger generation counterparts, are digital immigrants, not digital natives. Computers and technology do not come naturally to a digital immigrant — either because the person did not grow up with computers, or actively avoided technology. Think of it like learning a foreign language. Workers who did not grow up using computers and personal technology during their formative years face similar challenges as those who did not speak English as children.

As business leaders look to invest in new strategies for skilling-up its workforce, it’s important they consider training that meet the digital literacy demands of each generation. While non-specific, written instructions may be all a younger member of the team needs to get going, video instructions, screenshots, and other tools may be necessary for workers less comfortable with the technology. Addressing this distinction shows an employer understands their workforce and encourages greater engagement in tech training.

Create constructive learning

Instructor-led training can be important to skilling up older workforces; creating opportunities for peer-to-peer learning can help those struggling to learn a new technology to feel supported in the process. It can also offer the opportunity for employees to discuss shared challenges and solutions to different tech-based problems.

Older Americans also have a lot to offer younger generations of the workforce. This means peer-to-peer training wouldn’t be a one-way conversation. While younger workers may offer help with learning a new tech service, older generations can offer insight on how to interpret provided content, manage people or present effectively. These are skills younger generations may not receive as much instruction on and could provide opportunities to foster their career growth as well.

So how can managers create opportunities for peer-to-peer learning? Social learning tools are key. With a platform that offers the opportunity for users to create and share content, managers can make it easier for employees to connect and learn from one another.

AI-based training programs

When employees set out to learn new technology or processes, it is imperative to tailor the learning process to accommodate each individual. This is more easily achieved with the help of AI and “smart learning” tools. System that are AI-based take the full bank of new information and allow the technology to determine the right delivery and dissemination tactics for specific learners.

For older learners, who are less used to these new technologies, this level of personalization allows them to keep up with their younger counterparts in a way that is meaningful, effective and productive. It also can encourage them to learn new skill sets that aren’t necessarily required for their job, but interesting to pursue. AI-powered recommendations can help any employee identify instructor-led courses on other technologies or even user-created content or employee conversations that bring new strategies or methods of use to light.

Successful people never stop learning. Therefore, it’s important that employers cater trainings to all generations willing to improve their skill sets. For the older digital immigrant workforce, this can help them to feel continually valued and engaged in a company, even as the workplace technologies continue to evolve.

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