Diversity Insight

Ideas for Leaders: New AARP study offers blueprint for training older employees

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2014, 21% of America’s workforce will be at least 55 years old. According to AARP estimates, that number could be even higher. As a result, you need to prepare for an aging workforce. With a wave of baby boomers set to retire and a consequent looming worker shortage, many employers are now considering the role of the older employee in their organizations. On one hand, these employees have the benefit of experience. On the other hand, there is some trepidation that they might not adjust to new technologies and processes as well as their younger counterparts.

The AARP Public Policy Institute Issue paper, “Workplace Issues: Older Worker Training: What We Know and Don’t Know,” summarizes what’s currently known about the ability of older adults to learn new skills and adapt new environments and highlights the issues and questions that need to be addressed to promote healthy and productive employment for older adults. The report includes analyses of today’s older workers, relevant research on older adults and learning, the “healthy worker phenomenon,” and factors influencing learning and skills acquisition.

The AARP report presents guidelines for the design of training programs for older adults based on a review of the gerontological, psychological, and human factors engineering literature including summaries of the authors’ own research. The literature indicates that training interventions can be successful in terms of improving performance.

By providing employers with relevant information on aging and training, and highlighting gaps in existing knowledge, the AARP hopes that the report will underscore the importance of the issue. To read the full report, visit http://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/econ/2006_22_worker.pdf.