I’m a big advocate of workplace training and retraining, but judging by most businesses today, not many are listening.
The truth is, most organizations have limited time or resources for training. Most managers and employers in all fields expect their workers to show up with the necessary skills, and new abilities must be learned on the job. The few exceptions include vendor-supplied training and similar offerings, but these range from quite good to one-shot, hit-and-miss propositions.
One group for which this is particularly troubling is likely to be your older workers. Despite stereotypes and very real issues of rapidly advancing technology, older workers bring a great deal to the workplace. This is especially important with our aging population and today’s tighter employment market. In simple words, you’re likely to find it increasingly difficult to keep your organization staffed without calling on at least some older workers.
Despite real challenges—and some do exist—older workers contribute important experience and other advantages, including a frequent willingness to accept flexible hours. For them, and all of your workers, consider a few creative thoughts about training.
Regardless of worker age, one of your biggest challenges is likely to involve cost. My first suggestion is to do some research. It’s very probable that your local community college and workforce-training center (regardless of the specific name) have some training programs at a very affordable rate, sometimes with grants, tax incentives and other funding available. Depending on the size of your organization, some training may even be available at worksites.
You may find that for a single employee, or even a small group, the only practical solution is to expect the individual to pick up his or her own training costs. Even here, there are still incentives and other promotions you can offer with an eye on retaining these valuable employees. Simply helping them to find the right training can be a big help. Many of your workers may be willing to pursue training at their own cost, but have no idea what they should be focusing on or where the demand will be. Your help in where and how much they should invest can be a benefit to both of you.
Another topic may be the need for retrofitting the workplace to your employees. This is actually a much broad issue that ultimately involves most workers, including those with disabilities, temporary injuries or illness, or those who are simply prone to repetitive motion damage.
Retrofitting may involve changing the human/machine or human/office interface to make things more comfortable—which often translates into more efficient. Keeping the fax or printer down the hall where you installed it 10 years ago may not be smart if it’s now being accessed frequently. Some of these issues can be large and expensive, but many involve little more than stepping back and looking at an issue through the eyes of those who are involved daily.
This topic is too large for one blog, but the good news is that there is a lot of help out there. Before spending too much time or money retrofitting or adapting, conduct a little research for local organizations that specialize in these areas. Many will offer free advice and focused assessments that can save considerably.
I think the most important thing from all of this is to not take anything for granted. Although the options may appear limited, in most cases you have many choices for maximizing your staff productivity and their opportunities. It can truly be one of those win-win situations.