Employers not prepared for an ageing workforce, study finds
Employers are not prepared for an ageing workforce and are also not doing enough to prepare for a change, a new Cedefop study finds.
The research from the European centre for vocational training covers other EU Member States including Germany, Italy, England, Austria and Belgium, but also looks at developments in Canada and the USA; sectors discussed ranged from the pharmaceutical industry to retail.
Findings show that few companies are doing enough to prepare for change despite evidence that investing in learning later in life can bring real benefits to companies as well as individuals. It emphasised that employers need first and foremost to develop 'demographic literacy', i.e. to understand how to create a learner-friendly environment for employees of all ages. Successful companies, research shows, take a life-cycle approach to active ageing, addressing the learning needs of employees from recruitment to retirement.
This may require a significant change of attitude from all sides. Companies should get older workers involved in mentoring and coaching activities, and make sure their work teams capitalise on the potential of different generations working together. Workers must be encouraged to embrace learning at all ages. People older than 54 can be less optimistic about whether they will get to use new skills, and it is up to their workplaces to show that their efforts will be valued. One study in Italy demonstrates that older employees underestimate the benefits of training.
Jasper Van Loo, project manager at Cedefop, said: "The book underlines that ageing is not an isolated issue. It has to be considered alongside other trends - to name a few, globalisation, the greening of economies and societies, changes in the nature of work and the workplace, trends in ICT, new developments in learning and the rising importance of entrepreneurship skills.
"All of these developments influence what skills are needed in the future, and these skills will need to be delivered also to older workers. Of course we should not only think of ageing people as subject to these trends, they will also shape them as agents of change - and in any case, their active involvement in this process is necessary.
"The publication also draws implications for employers' HR policies. They need to re-examine the assumption that the cost of training older workers outweighs the benefits, on the grounds that their careers will be shorter. In reality, benefits appear to be lower only where employers do not sufficiently adapt the training to the older worker's learning preferences."