Gaps in the Multi-Generational Workforce

A study unveiled by IBM and the American Society for Training & Development reveals that only 16% of organizations have prioritized workforce demographic issues in company education initiatives.

The study says too few organizations have taken action to meet the challenges, either by addressing the retirement of Baby Boomers, or streamlining the learning curve for new employees.

However, there are steps that you, not to mention the remaining 84%, can take to reverse this trend. ?

Based on these findings, IBM and ASTD suggest that HR and line-of-business leaders work with learning executives to increase awareness and visibility of changing workforce demographic issues and focus on reducing the cycle time and increasing the effectiveness of on boarding and management-development efforts.

Other specific findings from the survey include the following:

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  • More than 80% of learning executives believe that changing workforce demographics will have a notable influence on their organizations, yet only 46% report their organizations are doing either a “good” or “excellent” job in addressing demographic shifts.
  • Learning executives are keenly aware of the need to preserve and transfer critical knowledge before employees retire or leave an organization for other reasons. The study says that while organizations are making strides in areas such as mentoring and knowledge repositories, less than one-third incorporate knowledge transfer into traditional learning programs. Recruiting mature workers to deliver classroom content and capture knowledge into existing learning programs are among the practices organizations are under-utilizing. The study says about 2% use multimedia to capture knowledge from retiring employees.
  • Over one-third of organizations believe that mature workers participate in learning activities less than younger workers, and that older workers encounter more barriers in participating in learning activities.
  • Learning leaders are concerned about streamlining the learning curve for new employees, not only as they replace older workers, but in organizations with rapid growth, especially in emerging economies such as China and India. Rapid on boarding is taking on a new priority as demographic shifts gather steam, the study says.

The study surveyed more than 240 global learning executives on issues including the impact of changing workforce demographics on their organizations, approaches to knowledge transfer, perceptions of learning preferences among workers of different generations, and barriers to learning.

Public, private and not-for-profit (including government) organizations across eight industry sectors in North America, South America, Asia-Pacific, and EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) responded to the online study this summer.

More than 70% were learning executives or professionals, with the balance including HR executives, and senior management outside of the learning function.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.

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