Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of buzz about new generations entering the workforce—and for good reason. Millennials, after all, have turned work life on its head with new concepts like open office designs, a heightened focus on emotional intelligence and a push for tech-driven workplaces and remote work. Meanwhile, the oldest members of Gen Z are just beginning to enter the workforce, bringing with them a wealth of technical skills and a willingness to solve problems through effective communication.
But with all the talk about how we can appeal to these new generations, it’s easy to forget that organizations must also empower older employees to gain new skills so that they, too, can succeed at work. According to Cornerstone’s report, Building an Adaptive Workforce: The Demand for Transparency and Skills Development, 60% of baby boomers feel they lack the skills necessary to withstand a future layoff, compared to 49% of millennials.
The report, which is based on a survey of 1,000 people in the U.S. who have recently been laid off from their jobs, found that the key to a productive, multigenerational workforce is to provide learning and development programs that seek to understand and cater to the learning needs of all employees, whether they are members of Gen X, Y or Z—or not.
Addressing the Generational Skills Gap
It’s no coincidence that older workers, on average, feel less confident in their skill set than their younger counterparts. A report issued by the Department of Labor Taskforce on the Aging of the American Workforce found that workers between the ages of 25 and 34 receive an average of 37 hours of training per year, while those over the age of 55 receive only nine.
Why this gap? A number of organizations do not invest in learning and development programs for older workers because they believe they will retire soon. But that couldn’t be further from the truth: Pew Research Center reported that baby boomers are actually delaying retirement at the highest annual rate in half a century. Yet according to Cornerstone’s research, 73% of boomers say their employers don’t help them identify the skills they need or support their desires to move jobs internally.
Rest assured, older workers want to sharpen their existing skills just as much as younger generations. In fact, developing different types of skills is more important to boomers than it is to millennials. Sixty percent of boomers see skills diversification—the ability to complete tasks and develop expertise beyond what your current job requires—as a key to job satisfaction, compared to 39% of millennials.
While it’s important for employees to learn skills specific to their roles, there’s also a case to be made for a core curriculum of sorts, where professionals of all ages can gain more general skills around emotional intelligence, technology and overall communication.
Improving Growth Opportunities Through L&D
To make general education possible for employees of all ages, organizations must build a learning and development strategy that is consistent throughout the company. While it’s up to leaders to develop lessons and curricula around the skills they want employees to have, workers—regardless of age or title—should also be encouraged and empowered to share their learning and development goals with their managers. After all, learning is not a one way street.
"Companies should absolutely play a role in supplying learning and development programs for their employees, but the responsibility of continued learning falls on the employee, too," says Jeff Miller, AVP of Learning and Organizational Effectiveness, Cornerstone. "To stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive, employees have to consistently develop their skills."
Several companies have already recognized the need to retrain older, more tenured employees.
Global telecommunications company AT&T, for example, recently kicked off a company-wide initiative to retrain its 250,000-person workforce. With an average tenure of 12 years, more than half of the company’s employees lacked the necessary STEM skills required to do their jobs effectively.
AT&T’s training program specifically targeted employees who did not have the technical skills necessary for an automated future and provided them with an opportunity to gain skills that would set them up for salary increases and promotions. This was especially true for older employees, many of whom were trained before some of these technologies even existed. AT&T’s retraining initiative also paid off in ROI—it’s less expensive and more productive to reskill workers than constantly have to fill positions due to turnover.
As companies develop their own upskilling and re-skilling initiatives, they should also consider implementing more transparent communication with regard to skills development and promotion opportunities to give all workers an equal opportunity to grow and thrive. Online learning and performance management tools provide insight into available jobs within a company and lay out the skills required to excel in each role. Employees can then work alongside their managers to create a roadmap aligning their learning and development with future opportunities within the company.
There’s always some uncertainty when it comes to predicting the future of work. But if there’s one thing we know, it’s that our multigenerational workforce is looking to improve their skills through corporate development programs—and it’s up to HR to deliver on that promise.
Image: Creative Commons
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Ten Dad-Friendly Workplaces
When we talk about the quest to "have it all," it's almost always in reference to working women trying to balance a stressful 9-to-5 with the equally difficult demands of family. To be sure, women face distinct challenges in the workplace and high expectations at home. But this Father's Day, let's not forget that dads are increasingly juggling work and home life, too. Single fatherhood is becoming more common in the US—a 2013 Pew report found that a record 8 percent of families with children were headed by a single dad—and 60 percent of households with children are dual-income as of 2014, putting added pressure on both working parents. While policies in the US do not mandate paid family leave of any kind—unlike parent-topia Sweden, which offers 16 months of paid parental leave and three months specifically for paternity leave—many companies are now thinking about how they can help their workers be "Employee of the Year," without sacrificing their "Dad of the Year" trophy. Here are ten excellent companies for working dads, based on a new report from parenting resource website Fatherly. 1. Google Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Mountain View, CA Number Of Employees: 53,600 Paid Paternity Leave: 7 weeks (12 weeks for primary caregiver) Industry: Tech Dad-friendly Policy Highlight: When you work with Google, your family is part of the family—really. If an employee passes away, the company provides his/her spouse with 50 percent of their salary for 10 years and immediately vested stock options, and children receive $1,000 a month until they turn 19 (or 23 if they're a student). 2. Facebook Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Menlo Park, CA Number Of Employees: 10,082 Paid Paternity Leave: 17 weeks Industry: Tech Policy Highlight: Procreating pays off. Facebook gives new parents a $4,000 "new child benefit," along with subsidized day care. Not to mention the $20,000 worth of supplemental insurance coverage for fertility and family planning treatments. 3. Bank of America Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Charlotte, NC Number Of Employees: 220,000 Paid Parental Leave: 12 weeks Industry: Finance Policy Highlight: Bank of America's twelve weeks of paid paternity leave is on par with countries likeIceland. Not too shabby. And, if you can handle the pay break, the company also allows for an additional 14 weeks of unpaid leave. 4. Patagonia Photo: Shutterstock Headquarters: Ventura, CA Number Of Employees: 2,000 Paid Paternity Leave: 8 weeks Industry: Retail Policy Highlight: Working parents don't have to stray far from their kids as Patagonia provides on-site child care for kids up to nine years old. The famously laid-back company will also provide afternoon transportation from local schools back to the office babysitter. 5. State Street Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Boston, MA Number Of Employees: 29,530 Paid Paternity Leave: 4 weeks Industry: Finance Policy Highlight: Flexible work arrangements are a must for the busy working dad (or mom). State Street's program helps take the stress out of setting up some work-from-home time by requiring their managers to approach their employees about flexible work options. 6. Genentech Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: San Francisco, CA Number Of Employees: 14,000 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Biotech Policy Highlight: Along with dedicated paid paternity time, Genentech also offers a sabbatical program for long-term employees. Every six years, you earn six months of time off—perfect for a long summer trip with the kids. 7. LinkedIn Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Mountain View, CA Number Of Employees: 6,800 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Tech Policy Highlight: LinkedIn likes to encourage employees to think outside their cubicle and, in addition to "special projects" time once a month, you will get a $5,000 stipend for job-related education expenses. Maybe "Childcare 101" would qualify? 8. Arnold & Porter LLP Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Washington D.C. Number Of Employees: 1,284 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks (18 for primary caregiver) Industry: Legal Policy Highlights: If your spouse or partner is gainfully employed and you'd like to trade some of those work hours for family time, Arnold and Porter allows employees working at least 25 hours to qualify for benefits. The firm even has an expert panel on hand to help their lawyers make the switch to part-time. 9. Roche Diagnostics Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Indianapolis, IN (North American HQ) Number Of Employees: 4,500 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Healthcare Policy Highlight: Roche employees have plenty of opportunities to teach Junior essential life lessons like how to swing a bat or grow a juicy tomato. The company spends $35,000 annually on sponsored extracurriculars like community sports leagues, and also offers an on-site employee produce garden. 10. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: New York, NY Number Of Employees: 41,000 (U.S.) Paid Parental Leave: 6 weeks (plus an additional 2 weeks if have or adopt more than one kid) Industry: Professional Services Policy Highlight: Another company that values ad-hoc work schedules, PwC allows employees work-from-home options as well as ""Flex Days." 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