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Tips for training senior employees

You've certainly heard this before: millennials are set to take over the workplace. They are tech-savvy, they challenge the status quo, and they won't settle for average performance. They want it all, and they want it now. Companies need to seriously address millennials demands if they want to attract and retain the best talent.

Millennials value continuous development at work, so training becomes a top business priority. But millennials are not alone in the workplace. Employees close to the age of 65 are actually the fastest growing segment of the workforce. Shouldn't business training programs seriously address the learning needs of senior employees as well?

Companies need to find ways to blend the in-depth knowledge of senior employees with the effervescence of younger ones. Training programs seem the perfect solution for this.

The following tips give a helping hand to L&D professionals who need to design engaging courses for audiences that include senior employees:

Don’t make assumptions

The only way to get to know the employees that will attend your training courses is to approach them individually. You shouldn't put labels on them based on your first impression.

It's common to assume that senior employees are not that drawn to using technology to perform their daily tasks. Some are really not. They have a naturally high resistance to change, they think they know how to perform a task, and see no need in changing their established (read: not automatic) way of doing things. Plus, if they do get involved in using technology in their work, they rarely impress with top performance. They are mostly slow learners, as they tend to value accuracy over speed.

However, you may be surprised to see they can be at least as enthusiastic in new tech as their younger colleagues. Senior people are the fastest growing group on Facebook, and they use technology far more than people usually give them credit for. It's only natural for them to want to keep up with the fast-paced world of their children and grandchildren. The more they approach retirement, the more they see their workplace as a means for social interaction and a place where they can still contribute to the well-development of society.

Align organizational learning goals with theirs

Irrelevant training is ill-received by all employees, no matter their age. Your goal is to create training courses that engage participants and offer clear benefits for their professional development.

It is of utmost importance to not only state the course objectives — at the beginning and throughout all learning modules — but also to emphasize how the training program will affect their jobs and their employability.

It's easy to get complacent when you approach retirement, so senior employees may be reluctant to participate in training. But if they understand the benefits that come along — team cohesion, recognition for their vast knowledge, the possibility to teach and model others, the element of fun, etc. — they could become the greatest supporters of your courses.

Of courses, besides offering relevant learning materials, and reasons to go through them all, training courses must have a sound instructional design. A bad user experience can be a huge turn off for any employee. Nobody will pay attention to nice imagery or other fun media if the course design is awful.

Involve senior employees in the process of creating courses

Senior employees have a depth of knowledge related to their company. Sometimes, they may know more about business procedures, professional relationships, and best practices than managers themselves. They can prove to be a never-ending well of knowledge and subject matter experts in a variety of fields.

If you encourage them to be mentors in the process of creating the training courses, you shoot two birds with one stone: they pass on their vast amount of knowledge, thus helping you design the most relevant courses, and they become more engaged with the learning materials and the whole training program. Senior employees can offer a great input on things that everyone should learn, and if they see how important this is for the success of their companies, they'll be more willing to learn more themselves.

In the next 10 to 15 years, we’re going to have the greatest transfer of knowledge that’s ever taken place.

Chip Espinoza, director of Organizational Psychology at Concordia University Irvine.

Companies that don’t plan for generational management shifts risk falling behind and losing out to their competitors.

So, as long as senior employees are involved in the design process of training, see the meaning behind each learning module, and are not treated like outsiders, they will participate and actively engage with a training program.

Have something to add about senior employees and their relationship with business training? The comments section awaits your input.

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