One Size Fits All? Not for an age diverse workforce.

by Robin on March 24, 2014

CIPD survey warns businesses that they must do more to meet the needs of an ageing workforce. Learnworks can help HR teams take a more strategic approach to getting the best from their older workers.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development has launched Managing an age-diverse workforce – the result of extensive surveys of attitudes and practices for a workforce which is growing older.  The backdrop to the survey – and its timeliness – is explicitly summed up as follows: While the number of young people in employment might well decline in the coming two decades, the principal change will be a much larger number of older workers seeking to extend their working lives – by choice or necessity – into older age than recent generations.”

From a skills updating and capability development perspective, the challenge is well articulated in the CIPD’s report.  Businesses – especially in the private sector – are doing too little, too late to ensure that this ageing workforce can continue to be productive and contribute into their later years.  Although the most important benefit of having a mix of ages across the workforce was described as Knowledge Sharing, few employers have strategies to maximise this benefit or deal with some of the challenges of the changing workforce demographic.  One fifth of organisations feel that their managers are ineffective or very ineffective at promoting team working amongst team members of different ages.  With 56% of respondents saying that line managers are not currently trained in this area, the surprise is that the levels of effectiveness are as high as they seem to be!

When it comes to training for older workers specifically, the reactive nature of HR responses to these issues continues.  The positive practice – such as regular reviews of training needs; line managers being required to encourage employees to take training programmes and encouragement for mentoring activities are somewhat undermined by the finding that 88% of respondents do not monitor participation in training on the basis of age.  This is hugely problematic.  As the CIPD noted in an earlier report in June 2011: ““..too many older workers are currently neglected in the workplace when it comes to training and performance management, with some employers perhaps assuming older staff are nearing the end of their working lives and need less attention.”

This perception was also described by a report by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST): “There is a sharp decrease in training once workers reach their mid-50s. Employers commonly believe that they will not get a good return on their investment in training for older workers”.

Despite these reports being almost three years old, HR functions are rarely collecting data on training participation by older staff.  The anecdotal evidence is certainly strong – older workers are not being trained and yet are an increasing – and increasingly important – segment of the UK workforce.

A mixed picture of good points and less good points emerges from Managing an age-diverse workforce. Although few specific recommendations are made in the report, it is clear that the CIPD is concerned that 86% of businesses currently do not have a strategy for how they will respond to the opportunities and challenges which an age diverse workforce brings.  It seems clear that HR teams should adopt a strategy which includes training and capability development activities targeted at older workers.

Learnworks Can Help

Help is at hand.  Complete Training: from recruitment to retirement published by Kogan Page specifically provides advice and guidance for creating training interventions for those at any stage of their career.  Based on some of the idea in the book, you can also access a free online mini- module which in just four minutes includes a review of the issue and seven handy hints to engage more experienced workers in their own training and in developing the capability of others.  This subject was further outlined in the Grey Talent webinar I delivered for the Corporate eLearning Consortium and you can see a recording of that presentation here.

If you have a need for some assistance in developing a strategy for addressing the performance needs and capability requirements of your Grey Talent, Learnworks Ltd will discuss your needs in a free, no obligation initial consultation.  Simply email robin@learnworks.org.uk to find out more.

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