WILLING TO LEARN: HR expert confirms older workers can adapt with training.
WILLING TO LEARN: HR expert confirms older workers can adapt with training.

Why learning, developing at work isn’t just for young bucks

A LEADING HR advisor has called on employers to provide greater learning and development opportunities to older staff, saying they're too often overlooked in the grand scheme of things.

"There is a misconception that as people get older they struggle to adapt to new ways of working or new technology," says leadership and people-management specialist Karen Gately.

"A lot of the age discrimination I see going on in the workplace is based on an assumption that older workers are limited in their potential to learn or keep up," she continues.

"Then those older workers might lose confidence over time and might not be putting their hand up for those learning opportunities."

Gately also says that while the assumption may be misinformed, it often comes from a well-intentioned place.

"I hear leaders who are in their 50s and 60s themselves reflecting on candidates and saying; 'Well, they are older, are they really up for the challenge and the depth of energy they're going to have to invest in this role? Perhaps it's a younger person's gig,'" she tells HRD.

"Knowing those people, I know that, more broadly speaking, they're fair, they're ethical and they're certainly operating with the intent to build the right team around them so there's often a need to challenge that thinking and that unconscious bias."

Gately says if older workers aren't pursuing learning and development opportunities, HR professionals should feel an obligation to intervene.

"An organisation cannot continue to learn and grow if it doesn't have a learning culture where employees have an attitude that they want to challenge themselves," she tells HRD.

That learning culture, says Gately, must be present right across the organisation, rather than just focussed on the young bucks.

"As much as we need to support younger people in understanding the world of work, making the connections they need and finding the right path, it's equally important to help older people find the right path for them in the later years of their career," she tells HRD.

"So rather than staggering to the finish line and falling over, perhaps we can actually sprint across the line because we're really passionate about what we're doing."

This story first appeared in HRD Australia


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