As people live longer and work longer, learning new skills can become critical for their own careers and for the employers they work for. With technology in the workplace changing things rapidly, what employees learned 15, 10 — or even two years ago — may no longer be relevant. Employees with a longer length of time between their formal education and their current role may not possess the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities required of them today.
Assessing the Training Needs of New and Seasoned Employees
A key decision for businesses faced with both the pros and cons of employees working longer throughout their lifetimes is how, and to what extent, to offer training to ensure that they're keeping up-to-date with massive shifts in business processes, technology and an increasingly competitive global market. On the one hand, ensuring that employees with longevity, and the experience and insights that come with that, continue to have opportunities to learn and grow can offer benefits to both parties. On the other hand, hiring new talent can provide fresh ideas and insight.
Training Seasoned Employees
Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, authors of "The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity," make the point that "our longer lifespans could either prove to be a gift or curse depending on the decisions governments and business make now," notes Financial Review.
David Miklas, of Miklas Employment Law in Vero Beach, Florida, is a labor and employment law attorney who works with HR directors to help prevent and defend litigation on matters including discrimination and retaliation. He says he often advises employers about age discrimination.
"Employers should absolutely be training their older workers," Miklas says. But some employers may feel it's not worth the investment because these employees may be close to retirement. Miklas points to a CareerBuilder report that indicates that the age 55-plus workforce has grown by 40 percent since 2001.
The benefits of continuing to train this segment of the workforce, he says, includes greater professionalism, stronger work ethic, greater reliability, high engagement and low turnover. "They are, in fact, much more likely to stay around than their millennial colleagues, making the investment in training a wise investment," says Miklas.
A Focus on Business Need
Training of any kind, for any employee segment, should be based on business needs and the evaluation of gaps in knowledge that may exist. Training can be both an expense and an investment. Savvy employers want to err on the side of making wise investments through their training decisions.
Biren Bandara is the founder of Leader School in Ontario, Canada. He suggests employers and HR leaders consider the following when making decisions about training investments:
- What are the risks of not investing in training?
- Will lack of training mean more time required to handle problems?
- What's the potential of the individual being trained, and are they a good investment?
These considerations are required regardless of the age, tenure or role of the employee. Sound training decisions can help ensure the investment organizations make in training has a positive and measurable impact.
Training as a Process
Harvard Business Review (HBR) notes that while U.S. businesses spend around $160 billion annually on training (globally, this number rises to $356 billion), only one in four senior managers say it was critical to business outcomes. HBR advocates the following six-step approach to talent development:
- Senior leaders define values and an "inspiring strategic direction"
- Senior leaders identify barriers to executing strategy and redesigning roles, responsibilities and relationships to overcome identified barriers
- The organization provides day-to-day coaching and process consultation to help employees excel in the new design
- Training is added where needed
- Metrics for individual and organizational performance are used to monitor success
- Systems for selecting, evaluating, developing and promoting talent are continually monitored and changed as needed
These steps overlap and may take place concurrently, in different areas of the organization and with different groups of employees.
For senior HR leaders and their advisers, it's important to view training as a process, not an event. The days of bringing mass numbers of employees in for an annual training event and expecting that knowledge to stick and, most importantly, to result in improved customer service ratings, are gone.
HR leaders need to take a consistently strategic approach to training decisions and ensure that training moves beyond an event to encompass an aligned approach that involves senior leaders and managers in ongoing coaching, assessment and skill development. These decisions shouldn't be based on age or tenure, but on organizational need. Training, aligned with identified and monitored business outcomes, should be an imperative in this day and age.
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