For every rejection there’s another connection


Every dog has his day. ~ Miguel de Cervantes

The saying you can’t teach old dogs new tricks is limited by those who believe they can’t be retrained. We’re not talking individuals here but companies’ perception and value of older workers and their ability to learn.

Sure, individuals can be held back by their own negative beliefs but when that extends to external challenges outside their control, it makes things all the more difficult.

It’s been three years since the Centre for Skills Development surveyed 8000+ employees across G7 countries. The Older Learners in the Workforce study found more than one-third expected to continue working in some capacity during their retirement. It also confirmed demographic changes meant the use of older talent would need to be maximised.

The report cited four popular age stereotypes: Older workers do not want to learn; Older workers cannot learn; Older workers have great difficulty learning new technology; and Investment in training older workers provides a poor return. Motivation was also mentioned as a significant barrier, and perceptions around older workers’ inclination to learn were more negative than around their ability to learn.

The report cited four popular age stereotypes: Older workers do not want to learn; Older workers cannot learn; Older workers have great difficulty learning new technology; and Investment in training older workers provides a poor return. Motivation was also mentioned as a significant barrier, and perceptions around older workers’ inclination to learn were more negative than around their ability to learn.

Barking up the wrong tree: Despite findings revealing skills development of older workers would hold long-term benefits for employers and society, it seems few companies globally have embraced the necessary changes to cope with an ageing workforce.

In fact most appear to be winding older workers’ contributions down, or out.

You have to forgive companies. Many organisations are still struggling to understand this demographic change. The study explains why companies favour youth over experience. No surprise it is a misguided bottom line assumption based on the belief younger workers have longer in the workforce to provide a better return on investment.

And yet the same report revealed that many workers 50 and older are at the height of their career, not at the end of it, and could continue to contribute. Moreover they wanted to.

So of course it is disheartening to be fighting for recognition among such a huge throng. You’ve been there and done that. Back then it was being noticed among a pool of young upstarts. You might have been the biggest upstart of them all. You worked hard early in your career to gain that edge, now you have to do it all over again!

Chasing your tail gets you nowhere:  Why in 2014 are companies still turning their backs on an ageing workforce? In 2011, the study put the reason down to employers not having access to information or data on the productivity and return on investment of older workers, hence a leaning towards the traditional model of valuing younger workers which prevails today.

Crazy at a time when workers 50+ are the fastest growing segment of the workforce, and numbers in this group will continue to grow until 2030. Crazier still when stats show generation LIKE are groomed to pop in and out of as many as 10 to 20 jobs in their lifetime, showing there’s merit in maintaining loyal older workers.

Trust that those age stereotypes being held within organisations WILL fall by the wayside. Sheer scale favours such an outcome. While older workers wait, fill in the time to upskill, reskill and learn new tricks until companies catch up. The power of technology to tailor one’s own e-learning can only enhance the experience until firms come round to providing older workers access to training and employment opportunities.

Believe the stats showing organisations in the US, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand putting incentives in place for older workers are the trigger for change. After all, the study also suggested the flow-on effect from innovation in HR practices and within organisational cultures most likely would dispel the misconceptions of older workers’ abilities and worth.

So now is not the time to give up. Do what it takes to retrain and be part of shaping the new workforce because every dog has its day and for every rejection there is always a new connection. As fellow blogger and motivational speaker Jeff Moore — My Everyday Power — says, there are three things to consider:

  1. Recalibrate who you are.
  2. Look at what strengths make you the best version of you.
  3. Let the past be the past.

Good advice. 

Judy Wilkinson is a blogger and freelance journalist who has spent quality time since 2012 upskilling, reskilling and trying out new tricks.

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