Learning & Development

Upskilling and Retaining a Maturing Workforce

Millennials and boomers might not think they have much in common, but they're two of the biggest drivers of changing how we work. Right now, more than a third of America's workers are Millenials, who are benefits hungry and have a reputation for job-hopping. In the next ten years, most Millennials will go from being students to parents. Their needs will and have already started to change drastically in that gigantic development span. At the same time, baby boomers make up a quarter of the workforce. And although millions of workers over 50 have recently retired, Fortune reports 79% of boomers want to keep working in more flexible roles. With this in mind, how do we tailor learning to upskill and retain the two largest groups in the US workforce as they mature?

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Understand Your Demographics

It may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how few companies track the ages of their teams. Start with the numbers.

Find out if and how your organization accounts for your maturing members by asking: 

  • Do we track age in our demographics reports? 
  • How many workers are currently ready for retirement? If there aren't any, who is closest?
  • What are our current transition processes around retirement?
  • Is there room for our older colleagues to transition into a role with different responsibilities, schedules, and workloads?

If no one in your org is close to retirement, they still have needs that will change as they progress in life and with the company. A great way to track their growth and development is to look at overall age distribution by position. 

  • What are the average position ages? Do they make sense?
  • Are there any outliers?

While life experience is just one of several factors that relate a person's age to their position, there's still room for analysis here. 

Tailor Learning to Individual Needs

Say you notice someone much older than the average age for their job. This person has been at the company for five years but hasn't progressed past an associate level. Think critically about the learning they could benefit from. Is it leadership training? Skills advancement? Do they have any skills you don't know about that could be helpful elsewhere in the organization? Tailoring learning experiences gives people targeted help, increases engagement, fosters a sense of belonging, and eventually helps the whole group improve.

Older and more experienced members are less likely to have learning plans, let alone individual learning things. However, science says the brain can learn at almost any age. Ask your older members what they're interested in learning--do they need help with integrations? Going deep on your new performance management software? 

While it's important to personalize learning plans, one of the best ways to upskill and reskill workers is through blended learning--or a mix of in-person and self-paced online learning. Blended learning makes learning both personal and social, which is highly beneficial on an individual and group level. 

Another great way to embed learning into everyday life is to make it informal. Bite-sized lessons are often easier to create, and they increase retention, maintain engagement, and make learning accessible and schedule-friendly. 

Think Outside the Box

When you're thinking about organizational skills gaps, have you considered whether any of your older members may have the information you need?

Many boomers expressed they'd appreciate more consultant-style roles with lighter responsibilities and more flexible schedules. As we reimagine work, we can use this desire to fill existing knowledge and skills gaps. Consider matching newer and more mature members through a mentorship program. Mentors can play to the strengths of their experience and relationship skills, while mentees can absorb hard-earned knowledge and even switch roles and teach their mentor things. Mentorship creates a social learning environment that suits most collaboration styles, democratizes knowledge, and lets everyone play to their strengths for the greater good.

Be Willing to Try Something New

It's easy to think of all the ways you could improve your processes in a perfect world. The real challenge is creating strategies to implement these ideas, executing them, and evaluating what did and didn't work so you can realign. When upskilling and reskilling a maturing workforce, don't wait for a lousy attrition rate to make a change. Recognize your teams' needs and try to avoid churn proactively. 

As Millenials and baby boomers navigate their next steps, they need organizations willing to help them grow. Expand your reach beyond cookie-cutter practices and irrelevant content to nourish your teams. Helping everyone deepen their knowledge and embrace new skills starts with an open mind. A vital element of this work is empowering people to fail. The same can be said for empowering yourself to fail--and learn--as you work to deliver meaningful learning. 

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