Older workers must not be left behind when it comes to digital skills training, according to a survey and report from Business in the Community.
The poll of 2,000 employees, 1,000 of whom were over 50, found that older workerss are not receiving the training and skills development they need to succeed in the digital era. Only 25% of employees aged 50-59, and 22% of those aged 60-69, felt their employer encouraged them to take up learning and development opportunities. This is compared with 44% of 18-39 year-olds and 32% of 40-49 year-olds.
Older workers were also more likely to feel that their employer did not inform them about how technology and automation would impact their job compared to younger employees.
Jenny Lincoln, Age Research and Policy Manager for Business in the Community, said: "Too few older workers are getting the training and information they need to prepare for increased automation and technology in the world of work. With a rising retirement age, and fewer young people entering the workforce, it’s vital that employers invest in training older workers so that they are equipped with both the skills and confidence to make the most of the digital age.”
Separate research from McKinsey Global Institute has forecast that up to a third of US and German workers, and nearly half of those in Japan, may need to switch occupations by 2030 due to a sudden surge in automation. The researchers describe this as an upheaval on a par with the shift from agriculture to manufacturing.
Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Alliance Manchester Business School, told the Financial Times that that older workers, who remember a time when jobs were for life, may struggle with re-skilling.
“Thirty years ago the psychological contract was if you [work hard] for us we’ll give you career development,” he said. “Now the contract is that we expect you to be committed . . . but we cannot guarantee future employment.”
Therefore, what can businesses do to support older workers in their upskilling journey? Nupur Malik is the HR Director at Tata Consultancy Services, which helped support the Business in the Community research. She called on organisations to take action.
“We believe that training and development is an ongoing process and support all our employees to gain the skills needed to succeed at work, whatever their age,” she said. “Taking action will mean more businesses can thrive in an increasingly competitive global business environment and support employees to stay in good work for longer.”
“By supporting older workers to be 'digital adopters' employers can show they value experience, ambition and ensure that their businesses are prepared for future skills shortages," added Lincoln.