Ever since the default retirement age of 65 was abolished in 2011, the number of older workers in the UK has grown year on year. The widening generational gap in offices up and down the country leads to a tricky decision for the HR and training teams of Britain: should we invest in skills training for employees likely to retire soon?
There are currently 7.9 million workers aged 50 to 64 in the UK, with an additional 1.1 million over the age of 65. With these figures in mind it’s easy to assume that with such a large number of older workers their training requirements are typically well-handled. But many companies are reluctant to spend money on those most likely to leave the business in the next few years.
There is a harsh catch-22 situation facing employers: while training helps bring out the best in each individual there is merit to the ongoing argument. For the most part the majority of workers aged 65 and above say they are continuing to work simply for the fun of it. A novel concept for many of the UK’s workforce. But regardless of the reasoning behind the decision this demographic still makes up a proportion of the staffing quota and therefore has the right to receive training.
Another factor holding these workers back from their full potential is their health. Forty-two per cent of 50- to 64-year-olds have a disability or long-term health condition, often resulting in needing to take additional sick days or time out of the workplace for medical visits.
With this in mind, how can you include all members of staff in training days? There are a number of options.
As the number of experienced team members grows, one benefit of providing these individuals with extra training is their ability to then mentor junior employees. Utilising the combination of the latest skills training plus years of knowledge built up in a number of businesses, a mentorship scheme within the workplace can not only help build skills but also professional working relationships.
Split the training budget between in-house and outsourced learning. While hiring and maintaining an in-house training team is a great way to ensure L&D opportunities are available throughout the year, no team can encapsulate the entire skill base of an industry.
For any older employees showing resistance to new training, dividing the team between outside training organisations and in-house L&D professionals can result in both sides receiving new skills that are then absorbed via an osmosis style of learning through simple day-to-day work.
Don’t assume that the older the learner the more support they require with technology in the workplace; 90% of workers over 50 are daily internet users, indicating rising levels of digital skills prowess among the demographic as a whole. While the stereotype of an older person hitting the computer in frustration does exist, it also happens with people much younger, all of whom need the same level of guidance.
Every employee requires consistent learning and development opportunities throughout the cycle of their working life. No matter the age of the individual, as our population’s median age increases so too will the average working life in businesses across the UK. It’s vital that this slice of the workforce is utilised to their fullest, not only for their personal gain but also to improve business success.
Michael O’Flynn, is a director at training provider Professional Academy