Skip to content
Home » HR Industry Articles » The Impact of Technological Change on Older Workers and the Need for Lifelong Learning

The Impact of Technological Change on Older Workers and the Need for Lifelong Learning

    As the pace of technological advancement accelerates, a significant number of older workers in the U.S. face the prospect of early retirement due to challenges in keeping up with evolving skills. According to a recent report from Multiverse, over 2.4 million workers aged 50 and above may leave the workforce prematurely. However, there’s a silver lining: a substantial portion of these individuals express a willingness to continue working if provided with better access to training.

    Key Findings:

    1. Digital Transformation Acceleration:
      • The survey, encompassing 3,000 workers aged 50 to 65 in the U.S. and U.K., underscores a widespread sentiment among older workers that the pace of digital transformation is intensifying.
      • Sixty-four percent of respondents observe a notable increase in the speed at which technology is evolving within their respective industries.
      • The recognition of this acceleration sets the stage for understanding the challenges faced by older workers in adapting to the swiftly changing landscape.
    2. Willingness to Continue Working with Training Access:
      • A striking revelation is that 41% of workers aged 50 and above express a strong willingness to remain in the labor market if provided with enhanced access to training.
      • This finding implies a latent potential for retention strategies that focus on addressing the specific training needs of older employees, potentially mitigating the risk of premature retirements.
      • It also underscores the importance of targeted efforts in skills development to bridge the gap between the existing skill set of older workers and the evolving requirements of the modern workplace.
    3. Concerns About Artificial Intelligence Impact:
      • The survey sheds light on the apprehensions of older workers regarding the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace.
      • Thirty-nine percent of respondents voice concerns about the negative impact of AI adoption on both their roles and job security.
      • This suggests a need for organizations to proactively address these concerns through transparent communication, education, and, most importantly, by incorporating older workers into the AI integration process, emphasizing the augmentation rather than replacement of human capabilities.

    These key findings collectively highlight the evolving landscape of the modern workplace and the challenges faced by older workers in adapting to technological changes. The willingness to continue working, if accompanied by targeted training initiatives, emphasizes the potential for organizations to retain valuable experience and expertise within their workforce. Additionally, concerns about AI underscore the necessity for organizations to approach technological integration with sensitivity to the workforce’s diverse needs and perceptions.

    Challenges Faced by Older Workers:

    1. Prioritization of Younger Workers:
      • A significant concern highlighted in the survey is the perception among older workers that they are not given equal priority when it comes to learning and development opportunities.
      • Fifty-seven percent of respondents feel that younger workers receive preferential treatment in accessing training and skill development programs.
      • This perceived bias can lead to a sense of neglect among older workers, impacting their morale and motivation to engage in continuous learning.
    2. Lack of Employer Support for Digital Skill Development:
      • A quarter of surveyed individuals aged 50 and above report a lack of support from their employers in developing digital skills.
      • This finding is particularly concerning as digital skills have become integral to success in contemporary workplaces. Employers failing to facilitate skill development may leave older workers struggling to cope with the demands of rapidly evolving technologies.
    3. Limited Participation in Training Programs:
      • Forty-four percent of respondents admit to not participating in any training courses or programs at work in the past year.
      • An additional 20% have abstained from training for at least three years. The reasons for this lack of participation are varied, with nearly half attributing it to a simple lack of training opportunities provided by their employers.
      • This indicates a gap in the organizational approach to continuous learning, with a need for employers to actively promote and provide accessible training avenues for their older workforce.
    4. Impact on Health and Well-being:
      • Beyond the professional realm, the survey identifies a personal cost to the rapid pace of technological change. Fourteen percent of respondents cite digital transformation as a cause of anxiety, affecting their overall health and well-being.
      • This finding underscores the need for organizations to consider the holistic impact of technological advancements on their workforce, implementing strategies that support both professional development and employee well-being.

    Addressing these challenges requires a multi-faceted approach, including reevaluating training priorities, ensuring equal access to learning opportunities, and fostering a workplace culture that values and supports the continuous development of all employees, regardless of age. It is crucial for employers to recognize the potential of their older workforce and actively invest in strategies that promote their growth and adaptation to the evolving demands of the modern workplace.

    Opportunities for Retention and Learning:

    1. Reconsideration of Retirement Plans with Learning Opportunities:
      • Sixteen percent of older workers planning to retire in the next 12 months express a willingness to reconsider their retirement plans if provided with opportunities for learning and skill development.
      • This finding highlights a crucial opportunity for employers to retain experienced talent by actively addressing the educational needs of their aging workforce.
    2. Willingness to Stay for New Opportunities with Training:
      • Among those contemplating leaving their jobs in the near future, a substantial 41% express a willingness to stay if presented with new opportunities for learning.
      • The prospect of fully funded training programs emerges as a significant motivator, potentially extending the tenure of these employees by up to six years.
      • This underscores the pivotal role that training and skill development initiatives can play in retaining valuable human capital and preventing premature workforce exits.
    3. Interest of Early Retirees in Returning to Work with Training Opportunities:
      • Thirty-five percent of early retirees who have already left the labor market express interest in returning to work if offered opportunities to train and develop new skills.
      • This presents a unique chance for organizations to tap into a pool of experienced professionals, potentially mitigating talent shortages and benefiting from the wealth of knowledge possessed by these individuals.
    4. Alignment of Learning with Employee Preferences:
      • The survey indicates that learning and development initiatives, especially those aligned with employees’ career aspirations and interests, can significantly impact retention.
      • Understanding the preferences and goals of older workers allows organizations to tailor training programs that not only address immediate skill gaps but also contribute to the long-term job satisfaction and engagement of their workforce.
    5. Lifelong Learning as a Priority:
      • Gary Eimerman, Chief Learning Officer of Multiverse, emphasizes the importance of committing to lifelong learning for all workers.
      • Prioritizing ongoing education not only enhances job satisfaction but also addresses the widening digital skills gap, presenting a substantial opportunity to strengthen the overall U.S. labor force.

    Implications and Recommendations:

    1. Investment in Lifelong Learning:
      • The survey findings emphasize the critical need for both employers and the government to invest in the ongoing learning of all workers, irrespective of their career stage.
      • Gary Eimerman, Chief Learning Officer of Multiverse, advocates for a commitment to lifelong learning as a means to boost job satisfaction and address digital skills gaps.
      • Organizations should allocate resources and create policies that foster a culture of continuous education, ensuring that employees, especially older workers, have access to relevant and timely training opportunities.
    2. Retention Strategies Tailored to Older Workers:
      • To retain older workers, organizations should develop targeted retention strategies that address the specific learning and development needs of this demographic.
      • Recognizing the value of experience and expertise that older employees bring to the table, employers can design programs that not only enhance technical skills but also leverage the wealth of institutional knowledge possessed by these individuals.
    3. Transparent Communication on AI Adoption:
      • The concerns expressed by 39% of respondents about the negative impact of AI adoption on job security highlight the importance of transparent communication.
      • Employers should proactively communicate their AI integration strategies, emphasizing the collaborative nature of technology and the augmentation of human capabilities rather than replacement.
      • Providing training and upskilling opportunities related to AI can further empower older workers and alleviate anxieties related to technological advancements.
    4. Equal Access to Learning Opportunities:
      • Addressing the perception among older workers that they are not prioritized for learning and development is crucial.
      • Employers should ensure equal access to training opportunities, debunking the notion that younger workers receive preferential treatment.
      • Implementing inclusive learning programs that cater to diverse age groups fosters a positive and supportive workplace environment.
    5. Tailoring Training Programs to Individual Aspirations:
      • Recognizing that learning preferences vary among employees, organizations should tailor training programs to align with individual career aspirations.
      • Understanding the goals and interests of older workers allows for the development of personalized learning paths that contribute not only to immediate skill development but also to long-term career satisfaction and engagement.
    6. Incorporating Well-being Initiatives:
      • The survey indicates that the rapid pace of technological change can impact the health and well-being of older workers.
      • In addition to technical training, employers should consider holistic well-being initiatives that address the mental and emotional aspects of adapting to technological advancements.
      • Providing support services and resources to manage stress and anxiety can contribute to a healthier and more resilient workforce.

    Addressing Age Bias and Changing Perceptions:

    1. Recognition of Age Bias in Hiring:
      • The survey reveals that age bias remains a significant concern for two-thirds of retirees considering a return to the labor market.
      • Employers must acknowledge the existence of age bias during the hiring process and actively work to counteract these biases to ensure fair and inclusive recruitment practices.
    2. Evolving Hiring Preferences:
      • Contrary to age bias, the report from Express Employment Professionals indicates a shift in hiring preferences, with 60% of hiring managers expressing a preference for older candidates for entry-level positions.
      • Organizations should leverage this evolving perspective to challenge stereotypes about older workers, emphasizing the value of experience, maturity, and a proven track record of reliability in the workplace.
    3. Encouraging Reentry Through Upskilling:
      • The interest of retirees in returning to work, given the opportunity to train and develop new skills, suggests a potential avenue for organizations to counter age bias.
      • Employers can actively encourage and support the reentry of older workers by offering upskilling programs, showcasing a commitment to investing in the continuous development of their workforce, regardless of age.
    4. Holistic Assessment of Experience:
      • Employers should move beyond age as the sole factor in hiring decisions and adopt a more holistic approach to assessing experience and skills.
      • Recognizing the diverse skills and knowledge that older workers bring to the table allows organizations to tap into a valuable resource and benefit from a well-rounded and experienced workforce.
    5. Creating Inclusive Work Environments:
      • Organizations must cultivate inclusive work environments that value diversity in age, experience, and perspectives.
      • Promoting a culture of inclusion involves addressing unconscious biases, providing diversity and inclusion training, and fostering collaboration among employees of all age groups.
    6. Communication and Education on Age Diversity:
      • Proactive communication and education within the organization can play a crucial role in changing perceptions about age.
      • Employers should emphasize the benefits of a diverse workforce, showcasing success stories of older employees contributing effectively to the organization’s goals.
    7. Flexible Work Arrangements:
      • Recognizing the unique needs and preferences of older workers, employers can implement flexible work arrangements.
      • Offering options such as part-time work, remote work, or phased retirement can not only attract experienced individuals back into the workforce but also contribute to a positive work environment.
    8. Community Engagement and Mentorship Programs:
      • Establishing community engagement initiatives and mentorship programs that involve older workers can foster a sense of belonging and purpose.
      • Such programs provide opportunities for knowledge transfer, where experienced individuals can mentor younger colleagues, showcasing the mutual benefits of a multigenerational workforce.

    The impact of technological change on older workers is undeniable, with a considerable number at risk of early retirement. However, the survey findings highlight a willingness among these individuals to continue contributing to the workforce if provided with relevant training opportunities. As businesses navigate the digital landscape, there is a clear call to prioritize lifelong learning for all workers, ensuring the retention of valuable skills and knowledge across generations.

    Disclaimer: This article provides general guidance and information. HR managers should consult with legal experts to ensure compliance with federal, state, and local laws when implementing these strategies.