The Business Case for Training an Older Workforce

Most training dollars are focused on millennials rather than older workers. A U.S. Department of Labor Taskforce on the Aging of the American Workforce reported that workers between ages 25 and 34 participated in four times more training (37 hours) than employees over 55 (9 hours).

Why? The reasons likely stem from commonly held misperceptions, or biases, about aging staffers. Employers assume that their older workers don’t want to–or can’t–learn new tricks. They are also reluctant to spend money on employees who are expected to retire imminently.

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However, there’s a strong business case for providing training to the growing cohort of 50+ workers. Here are five compelling reasons to invest in the career development of your older workforce:

1. Old dogs CAN learn new tricks.

As my colleague Carol Evans noted at the recent Working Mother Work Beyond conference: “Older workers have been keeping up with the 18-month cycle of technology change since Moore invented Moore’s Law.” A Dropbox survey found that older workers adopted technology as quickly as younger workers–and the kicker is, they felt less stress about it. In the US, 33% of workers under 44 reported tech-related stress compared to only 24% of workers 55+.

2. A uniformly trained workforce.

The aging workforce is expanding thanks to the large Baby Boomer generation and increased longevity. By neglecting to train this growing segment, you are risking that a significant portion of your employees will be under-trained. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the labor force growth rate of 65- to 74- year-olds will be about 55% over the decade ending in 2024, compared with a 5-percent increase in the labor force as a whole. “Any employer who wants to engage a skilled, motivated, and disciplined workforce cannot afford to ignore them,” Peter Cappelli, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School Center for Human Resource, wrote in the Harvard Business Review.

3. Intergenerational mentoring.

Providing training for employees of all ages offers the opportunity for intergenerational knowledge sharing and learning opportunities. Millennials can gain institutional knowledge and build business relationships with the help of more experienced workers. Older workers can receive reverse mentoring on new technologies and media. Both can lead to greater productivity for all ages.

4. A better investment.

Older workers are less likely to walk out the door with your development dollars. According to a LinkedIn survey, millennials job-hop more than any other generation. In contrast, the older workforce tends to be more attached to their employers. In September 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that median employee tenure was higher among older workers than younger ones. Specifically, the median tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 (10.1 years) was more than three times that of workers ages 25 to 34 (2.8 years).

5. Stronger talent.

By investing in training opportunities for all ages, companies demonstrate that they care about their employee’s future and long-term career plans.  With less turnover and more skilled workers, organizations are better positioned to build the strong internal talent pipelines required to stay competitive.

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