6 FEBRUARY, 2018


With the rapid evolution of technology has come a tide of digital tools, new industries and jobs, and a gap between generations. The gap between millennial and baby boomers is probably one of the most noticeable. As a company with an age-diverse workforce, it’s important to recognise these generational gaps as an opportunity to support and leverage diversity, and gain an edge over competitors.

Bridging the gap to build a cohesive, focused organisation requires understanding your team and developing a strategy to target possible gaps. Whether you’re managing a digital native or a digital immigrant, they have the same potential to gain new tech skills and become valuable employees in your organisation.

Encourage understanding of attitudes towards technology

One obvious impact of technology in workplaces is how it’s affected how we communicate. In your organisation, you might have millennial team members who are comfortable using chat-collaboration tools like Slack, while older team members might prefer email, memos, or even paper and pen for sharing ideas.\

Organisations can address this through efforts like mentoring programs, which can be used to improve cross-generational understanding of different communication styles. Beyond communication styles, find ways to boost cross-generational understanding of different ways generational groups prefer to use technology. This could include efforts to help older generations or groups who are more resistant to tech tools. Take the time to help these groups understand the benefits of new platforms or tools you introduce to the workplace.

Address technology and work-life-balance perceptions

Technology may be affecting how your employees value work-life balance. For younger workers, tech-enabled mobile work and digital collaboration might be contributing to valuing qualities like flexibility and innovation. In contrast, older workers might prescribe to a more traditional work model like logging a full day at work before going home.

Organisations could address this by framing flexible work arrangements, where offered, as policies that can be advantageous for all generations. Ensure these policies are designed with every generation’s unique needs in mind, whether it’s more time to pick up the kids from school, caring for ageing parents, or social commitments.

Manage the people, not the stereotypes

While stereotypes or putting your employees into groups can help you better understand them, remember it’s about the individuals, not stereotypes. Not all your older workers will fit into a tech-resistant stereotype, and not all your younger employees will be tech savvy and proficient with software.

Your older employees might be technologically skilled and be quick at adopting tech skills you need. By avoiding stereotyping individual employees, you’ll be able to develop effective strategies that reflect the reality and truly leverage your human resources. Individualised pathways and training programs could be one way to achieve this.

Create a learning culture

The pace of tech-related change has meant the melding of learning and doing for some industries, if not most. Upskilling through learning on the job, training programs, and encouraging employees to take charge can help you create a learning culture in your business. Integrate learning into your everyday practices, for example, by ensuring digital technology is the rule rather than the exception. By addressing upskilling, you empower all workers, regardless of their generation or age, in the use of technology tools.

Offer diverse training opportunities

Empower your employees to learn by offering a range of training opportunities. However, don’t leap into training without first understanding what your organisation needs. Start by assessing your current human-resource capacities and comparing it with where you need to be.

Survey employees about training

Assessing what you already have could mean asking your employees about skills you didn’t know they had. British Airways, for example, cultivated home-grown talent by seeking out existing employees who were eager to do more tech-related work and had the skills to do it. Other major brands like Vodafone and Westpac were also able to educate and train their existing workforce to bridge skills gaps. In turn, this could help older workers catch up to their younger counterparts.

Make training accessible and user friendly

For older workers, it could be a good idea to make the training process as straightforward as possible. Older workers can be as enthusiastic about gaining new skills as any other employee, and accessibility – such as through web-based, self-paced training – could make it easier for older employees.

Training programs like micro-credentialing or bespoke courses could support greater interest in upskilling among your employees. Seek feedback from your employees – young and old – and find out what it is that motivates them to upskill. You might be surprised to discover they enjoy getting more accredited credentials to add to their resume, or that a lot of your older employees are interested in learning about digital marketing or data analytics.

Bridging tech-related gaps between generations requires improving mutual understanding between different age groups as well as treating every employee in your organisation as an individual. As the gap has some of its roots in skill gaps and attitudes towards tech tools, training and promoting understanding is essential. By investing in long-term learning, you can support team members of all ages to upskill and in turn close the gap.

DeakinCo. designs purpose-built learning and performance solutions to equip workforces with the skills to succeed both now and in the future. Find out more about our expertise in microcredentialing, bespoke-learning solutions, and qualifications on our website. Alternatively, we welcome you to contact us for more information about how we can help you close generational gaps by building a learning-centred organisation.