Nearly all firms agree that they do not have the required capabilities to embrace the future of work. Most of these companies will also tell you that they are struggling to hire the right talent as there is a global skills shortage. This skills shortage is only going to be further exacerbated as the years go on. Yet there is one other statistic that seems to have gone unnoticed among this debate. That is the number of workers who will have an outdated skill set. I do not think it’s a surprise that the proposed talent shortage number is almost the same as the number of workers who will have outdated skills. Surely, this presents an obvious solution, and companies should invest in re-skilling their experienced workforce, instead of trying to hire people with these skills that are not yet mainstream and widely available.
Training is always aimed at the young
One of the most damning statistics of learning and development programs is the heavy skewing of its focus to younger employees. In fact, research from the Department of Labour discovered that workers aged 25-34 receive on average 37 hours of training a year, whereas workers aged 55 and above receive only 7 hours of training per year. I do not think you need to be a genius to realise, that this is a core reason why the older generation are lacking the skills to thrive in the digital economy. Employers have not helped their own cause by under investing in their experienced workers. It is not just the other 55’s either. The same research shows that people in their 40s also receive less training than their younger peers. Surely it makes sense for an organisation to ensure that all its workers are as highly skilled as possible.
60 something is not old anymore
The old argument as to why companies would not train their older workers, was that they would likely retire soon. I can understand this. 20-30 years ago, healthcare was not as good as it was, and people retired at 65. In developed economies this is no longer the case. 60 something is not old anymore. In fact, the number of people still working past their 70th Birthday has doubled in the past decade and is forecast to continue to rise. So, whilst historically I can understand the logic, after all when I was younger, very few people saw their 70th birthday. This is no longer the case. So, investing in retraining workers in their 50s or even 60s makes more sense, as employers are likely to get another 10-20 years of service out of these employees. In fact, older workers are the fastest growing part of the workforce. The Department of Labour anticipates further 55% growth in the 65-74 employment demographic to 2024, while the rest of the workforce is only expected to grow by 5%.
Older workers want more training
Finally, as companies struggle to attract and retain talent, it is important to remember that its not just the younger generation that want to learn new skills. This is a universal trait among all employees. 8 out of 10 employees aged 45-64 say that a job where they can learn new skills is important to them. A further 7 out of 10 say that ongoing training is crucial to keeping them engaged in their job. It seems to me that retraining and upskilling of a company’s older workers should be a key element of its strategy, and adjust to this reality will hurt both business results and employees career longevity.