During the pandemic, employees from older generations exited the workforce in huge numbers – leaving the UK with roughly 600,000 fewer over-50s working than expected. It’s likely that some of them took the opportunity for a brief break and then struggled to pick back up where they left off as the digital world had shifted so quickly in just a few months.
The rapid waves of digital transformation that hit the workforce over the past two years have left some senior workers feeling intimidated when trying to go back to their pre-pandemic roles or take on the challenge of making a new career move. This is made clear in an August 2021 report by anti-ageism organisation 55/Redefined, which shows that more than two-thirds (68%) of British over-55s feel the present-day job market is closed to them.
Technology can serve as a barrier to inclusion for senior staff
Technology is undeniably playing a role in dividing seniors from the younger workforce. Learning new software can be daunting, creating a massive barrier to generational and educational inclusion in the workplace. As many companies take part in ongoing digital transformation, jobs often evolve, meaning an employee’s day-to-day tasks and in-demand skill sets can change significantly.
Even for employees who remained in the same role during the pandemic, digital changes can be intimidating and frustrating. For those returning from a two-year sabbatical due to the pandemic, it can feel prohibitive. New workplace software and applications can be a major barrier for many.
Technology can also enable generational inclusivity in the workplace
There’s huge pressure on organisations to address these issues and come up with a way for staff of all ages to be their most productive, best selves at work. Although fewer older workers are in the workforce now, research from Legal and General suggests they will form a large chunk of the workforce by the start of the next decade, when almost half of over-50s will be in work.
Against this backdrop, it is critical that companies consider how technology can enable multi-generational workplaces to thrive. To bridge the generational divide, organisations must focus on driving digital adoption. They need to find a way to understand how employees are interacting with their technology stack to take positive action and help people perform their roles productively and efficiently. By identifying areas that are causing challenges, organisations can help employees overcome problems when they ‘get stuck’ or run into difficulty using software, which ultimately holds them back from doing their best work.
Rather than forcing people to remember what they learned in a training session, organisations should instead be guiding users right where they are – on their screens, inside their enterprise applications. Digital Adoption Platforms (DAPs) provide this customised guidance, including the opportunity to get quick answers and even automate repetitive tasks. DAPs also provide visibility into software usage, allowing an organisation to pinpoint precisely where users are getting stuck and deploy solutions to continuously improve each employee’s individual user experience.
Working in this way reduces the amount of ‘technology onboarding’ required, as users are guided in real-time on their screens instead of having to undergo software training sessions. This empowers them to embrace technology and, ultimately, do their jobs better. Forget checking a ‘how-to’ document or referring to a recorded training – DAPs put the solutions right in front of users, saving time, effort, and associated cost.
It is imperative that any forward-thinking organisation sees their employees as end-users of enterprise technology and commits to improving their experience while simultaneously driving business outcomes. DAP is the simple solution to a complicated problem, and as technology stacks continue to grow in most businesses, digital adoption is more important now than ever before..
Technology adoption is a massive priority
The pandemic and the rise of remote working really escalated the importance of being able to use workplace technology remotely across industries. It has become central to the employee experience. Therapists, for example, now often use technology to virtually evaluate patients, provide therapy, and input their assessments into a software system. People who have been working in the same industry for over forty years may suddenly find themselves in roles that require higher degrees of technological know-how in order to do their jobs. Understanding technology at work is no longer optional, as an increasing number of roles cannot be performed well (if at all) without the ability to navigate the digital world.
Even after decades of success in a role, many workers from older generations are finding that their success now depends on their ability to harness technology. For many in this age group, continuing to work is not a choice. In the current economic climate of rising inflation and increasing cost of living, many workers find their livelihoods depend on their ability to use technology in order to do well in today’s highly digitised workplace.
For businesses, the goal is not to simply see workers survive in a new virtual workplace, but thrive. Organisations must ensure all workers, and particularly those over 50, are given the resources and support they need to remain engaged and perform in their roles. If they don’t, there is a real risk of losing these workers for good, which would not only pose a headache in terms of recruitment and hiring costs, but would also see valuable, irreplaceable experience and knowledge heading out the door.
Getting digital adoption right has never been more important – and there is no time to waste. It’s time to act.
Chelsea Pyrzenski is the Chief People Officer at WalkMe, responsible for leading the company’s efforts in attracting, developing, and retaining top talent. Chelsea has extensive experience coaching and supporting leaders through organizational design and change management and is an expert at raising the bar for an overall talent and teamwork agenda. Previously, Chelsea was CHRO at HireRight. She also held several HR leadership roles at VIZIO, National Football League (NFL), AT&T, and DIRECTV.