Upskilling and Reskilling for Age-Diverse Talent
Ensure growth opportunities are available to everyone in your organization, and knock down generational barriers.
Upskilling and reskilling are vital components of any corporate learning program. In fact, to stay competitive, employees should be continuously upskilling and reskilling: According to LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report, nearly half the skills that were relevant in 2015 will be obsolete by 2027.
However, a persistent form of discrimination called ageism or age bias routinely discounts entire groups of people from upskilling and reskilling opportunities — simply because they belong to a certain generation.
For example, a 2022 entry in the Journal of Aging Studies shared that "There is a wealth of evidence which demonstrates that older workers get less training at work than other age groups," and that "Evidence on the role of line managers suggests that they play a significant role in privileging younger workers for training and development."
This discrimination may not be intentional, but its impacts are nonetheless harmful to the business — and to the employees themselves. And in most workplaces, as many as five generations are working side by side: Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers, and the Silent Generation.
Skills turnover does not discriminate based on age, so neither should learning and development (L&D).
Read on to learn why learning and development professionals should strive to create an age-inclusive upskilling and reskilling program and how they can make it happen.
How to create an age-inclusive training program
Employee training or skill development programs are susceptible to age bias, regardless of the best intentions of L&D professionals. Unconscious biases and assumptions inform even the most mundane aspects of how these programs are run, including who information is shared with or how that information is presented.
In order to eliminate — or at least minimize — these biases, there are six approaches L&D professionals can take to reduce age-based discrimination in upskilling and reskilling.
Develop a culture of learning
When learning is baked into workplace culture, considerations like age will fall to the side in favor of providing training for every employee regardless of seniority, skill level, or age. Age bias in upskilling and reskilling can artificially limit the pool of potential employees who receive specialized training, which can result in missed opportunities to develop talented and motivated employees.
A culture of learning starts on day one and permeates the work environment from then on. Integrate upskilling and reskilling opportunities into employee onboarding to emphasize the importance of continuous learning. L&D professionals may also consider creating incentives, or even friendly competition, to encourage sustained learning practices. Leadership also has a role to play, so regular messages about learning from the C-suite can help reinforce the culture of learning.
- Learn more: Create a Culture of Learning in 6 Steps
Encourage a growth mindset
Each generation may have their own reasons for assuming they have nothing to gain from upskilling or reskilling. Younger employees may feel it is too early in their career to learn new skills — especially in the realm of leadership. Older employees may have settled into a comfortable way of doing things and therefore do not consider seeking out new skills.
No matter the reason, an age-inclusive approach to upskilling and reskilling is well served by encouraging all employees to embrace a growth mindset. With a growth mindset, new experiences are always opportunities to learn something, no matter how much a person thinks they already know.
- Learn more: Cultivating a Growth Mindset
Be conscious of age-based language
The language used to describe certain learning opportunities can have unintended consequences if it is put in an age-based context. For example, conveying an assumption that only older employees will need training for a specific technology may cause younger, less confident employees to opt out of the training rather than be seen as incapable or behind where they should be.
Frame any communication around what skills a certain training will provide learners and how those skills will help certain positions or career paths. Using inclusive language sidesteps the problem of employees opting out due to embarrassment or not seeing themselves reflected in the communication’s language.
- Learn more: Creating Inclusive Language Experiences
Provide options for multiple learning styles
While it is not helpful to differentiate learners by age, it is still important to remember that each learner has their own preferences about how to learn. By allowing employees to self-select how they learn, they will be more likely to participate in upskilling and reskilling programs.
To give all employees the tools they need to engage with learning content that best suits their learning style, make sure learning materials are available for those who learn best by reading written materials quickly, watching multi-course video courses, or absorbing material more casually in a conversational webinar. When multiple options are available, all opportunities should then be communicated to any relevant employees, regardless of age and preferred learning style.
- Learn more: Explore 16,000+ courses on LinkedIn Learning
Do not rely on stereotypes to guide learning
Stereotypes can be a serious impediment to a successful training program. The idea that older people are set in their ways and don’t want to learn or that younger people are automatically proficient in every form of technology can lead to missed opportunities for employee development.
Target learning opportunities based on role rather than by age or years of experience. After all, a Millennial and a Baby Boomer in similar functions are more likely to need much of the same training than two Millennials in unrelated functions.
- Learn more: Collaborating in a multigenerational workforce
Foster cross-generational learning
Social learning is one of the most effective ways to encourage employees to start and maintain a practice of learning. In fact, when employees learn together they see better outcomes than when learning on their own. But it is not enough to simply let employees self-assign learning buddies.
Create incentives for employees from multiple generations to participate in reskilling and upskilling programs together. By doing this, they will learn and retain the material more effectively while also sharing their own personal experiences with each other, broadening each employee’s perspective on how to approach learning and other challenges they may face at work.
To learn more about how to address potential age bias in the workplace, check out the LinkedIn Learning course Managing Multiple Generations. To build an online learning strategy that is accessible, effective, and engaging for employees of all ages and backgrounds, learn more about the LinkedIn Learning product.