Author Nelson Sivalingam, CEO at HowNow
Employment rates doubled for those aged 65 years and over between 1993 and 2018, and increased by almost one-third for those aged 50 to 64 year. With the state pension age now at 75, it is clear the UK workforce demographic is shifting as older people remain at work for longer. As well as these changes, new technologies are influencing the demand for different skills. By 2030, it is predicted that as many as 375 million workers will need to alter their skills in order to adapt to digital transformation.
However, despite business leaders’ fears about the burden of an ageing workforce, rather, this is an opportunity. Mentoring and reverse mentoring can boost morale and productivity, while seasoned workers can also bring knowledge and stability to the workplace. As well as this, an age-diverse labour force is also proven to contribute to better performance, while a study found that workers over 50 are the most engaged generation. It is also more economical for businesses to upskill their current workforce rather than committing resources for new hires. Therefore, to tackle the skills gap and cater to an ageing workforce, employers need to prioritise the recruitment, retention and retraining of seasoned workers, and to provide support as new technologies continue to disrupt industry.
Implement flexible working
Employers should think more broadly about flexibility in the workplace and implement flexible working policies for older workers. While many businesses promote flexible options for new parents and workers with a disability, but few are empowering mature-age employees to have more control over when and where they work.
Job-share arrangements, remote working options and more flexible hours are all options that should be encouraged within the workplace to better support an older workforce. This greater flexibility would help create a more inclusive culture and give more seasoned workers the ability to balance work and life commitments more easily. With the evolution of digital workspaces and communications technology, it has never been easier for employees to work from anywhere and at any time, while knowledge can be shared simply and efficiently.
Continuous performance management
While managers play a vital role in motivating employees to grow and learn, this role must complement incentive and recognition structures to ensure workers feel valued and rewarded for progress. Design your company’s incentive system to provide personalised incentives so that workers feel recognised as individuals and motivated to succeed in an environment that understands their specific needs and skills.
In addition, continuous performance management carried out at regular and short intervals, rather than yearly reviews, are a better way to monitor employee personal growth and upskilling, and keep on top of changing ways in which an employee may need to be supported, rewarded, or challenged.
Encourage self-directed learning
Recent research found that only 25% of employees aged 50-59 felt their employer encouraged them to take up learning and development opportunities, compared to 44% of 18-39 year-olds. Indeed, older workers are more likely to feel their employer did not inform them about how technology and automation would impact their job, indicating that the older talent pool is frequently not receiving the training and skills development they require to succeed in the digital era.
To enact change, employers need to create a company culture of lifelong learning. Predicting the skills that will be needed in the next few years by your business is difficult and liable to change, so implementing a culture where learning is continuous, adaptable and responsive, and where the resources that workers could need are at their fingertips, means the workforce feels supported and empowered to upskill themselves where and when they need. Learning is the second most sought-after workplace benefit, demonstrating that employees are positively affected by the ability to gain new knowledge.
A good route to developing this kind of business environment is by allowing employees to carry out self-directed learning. Integrated learning platforms powered by AI can be utilised to recommend learning that will be suitable for each worker’s unique needs and wants, as well as to achieve specific business goals. Online training suites also enable employees to onboard knowledge at a speed that suits them, learning at the speed of need.
Self-directed learning is more effective given that different generations are accustomed to gaining knowledge through different methods. Employees of an older generation may react better to a different training approach than that best used for millennials, for example. Consequently, allowing workers to onboard knowledge at a rate they have control over means they are more likely to learn efficiently.
Utilise analytics to pinpoint skills gaps
Business must use analytics to allow them to pinpoint where skills gaps are and provide training and upskilling opportunities to address these areas. Real-time analytics allow employers to keep track of employee progress and to provide feedback or direction when required. They also enable employers to better identify where workers might be finding areas problematic or what resources may be useful in empowering them to overcome weaknesses.
AI-powered training tools let business leaders create training that can address employee needs at scale and tailor the training to suit their business and their workforce. Such technologies can be utilised to provide insights for L&D leaders to develop adaptive learning experiences that workers require. Efficient digital learning and improved training in the workplace helps develop a well-trained workforce, allowing businesses to enjoy 26% more revenue per employee.
Research shows workers spend on average 30 per cent of their workday searching for information. This time could be used more productively for employees to upskill themselves or carry out their daily tasks. Consequently, business leaders should look to use tools that enable knowledge-sharing so that workers can construct and share snippets of relevant information that can be accessed via online platforms so that employees can access it wherever and whenever. In addition, such tools enable workers to contribute to an organisational memory that prevents knowledge from leaving a company when the worker does.
Endorse new job roles
Despite fears that the growth of job losses due to the growth of automation technologies, studies show that more jobs will in fact be created as a result. Therefore, businesses must concentrate resources on upskilling and reskilling current employees so as to future-proof their organisation. Companies can use analytics to recommend different job roles for workers based on skills matches for each individual, and can also offer the relevant training needed to provide them with the necessary skills.
In summary, in order to compete in the digital age, business leaders must invest in technologies to help them train and provide support for workers so the workforce is better prepared for constant technological innovation. By fostering an inclusive and diverse workplace suitable for all generations, businesses can demonstrate to employees that they value experience and ambition, but are also prepared for skills shortages.