At a recent speaking engagement, I was asked if it’s a waste of time and money to train older workers. Quite frankly I was taken back by such a question and found myself asking why an organization would feel that way. The manager posing the question said, “because they’re retiring in a few years”. Here are my thoughts on the subject.
Employers make a big mistake when they stereotype older workers as an employee segment not interested in learning new technology. Generally, the mature worker is interested in “keeping up” and learning new skills. Obviously, there will be some who are resistant and, together, the employer and employee should determine where they best fit into the organization. Boomers have valuable institutional knowledge critical for the continued success of the organization and it’s imperative that this knowledge be transferred to the next generation.
The magic happens when you create formal and informal opportunities for Boomers and Millennials to share their knowledge with each other. This is referred to as reverse mentoring and many organizations have adopted this approach. Millennials have the unique opportunity to teach their colleagues how to leverage technology and the Boomers can share their knowledge and help Millennials build critical relationships. The benefit to the organization is a more engaged and highly productive employee. Learning and development is a key engagement driver and companies need to leverage learning from others; it’s cost effective and provides rich learning.
Clients often ask me if it’s worth training employees if they’re close to retirement or in a high demand job. There is also a real fear around providing training so that the employee can move on to another job. Keep in mind that employees leave a manager more than an organization. Understanding why employees leave your company is as critical as understanding why they stay. When you dig deep, you’ll learn that the manager plays a leading role in the loyalty and departure. Often times employees enhance their skills and they are not valued or reinforced by their immediate supervisor.
More often I hear, “Why should I train my Millenials as they’re going to leave in 2.5 years.” and my response is always, “they’ll leave long before that if you don’t provide learning opportunities for them.” Millennials see learning and development as a benefit to working for an organization. I have yet to find a downside to providing training for all employees regardless of where they are in their career journey. Leveraging technology allows organizations to offer cost effective training with a careful curation of offerings to include micro learning, classroom, online and 21st century mentoring.
Training ROI can be difficult to determine because it’s a measure of both tangible and intangible results. Effective training should target the knowledge, skills and behaviors needed to achieve business goals; increased sales, loyal customers and improved efficiencies. Some of the metrics I look at include employee engagement and turnover, customer elation, employee readiness for new or expanded roles and overall business results. When an organization’s strategic goals include building a strong internal talent pipeline, learning and development is a critical enabler.
In the end, I answered the query by saying, “you are doing your organization a disservice if you don’t invest in learning and development for all of your employees.”