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Employers often overlook older workers’ development, new book reveals

11 February 2019

Employers frequently overlook older staff for professional development and training, even if it is unconscious, with many employees expressing that they feel they are left on the ‘scrap heap’, a book published by a UCL Institute of Education (IOE) academic today claims.

Older man sitting alone in a cafe

The book, ‘Older Workforces: Re-imagining Later Life Learning’, written by Dr Domini Bingham, examines the practices and policies of organisations across a variety of sectors as well as the attitudes of employees.

Bringing together a selection of research, literature reviews and case studies, the book calls for a societal change in how we view older people and how older people refer to themselves. 

One participant within the research noted that: “for the first few years your experience is really valuable then you reach a certain level as you’ve been doing it for years, people don’t think you’re going to get much better, they think you’re outdated with techniques, a bit old.”

Identifying a gap between findings which suggest older workers are encouraged to retire despite an ageing population in which more people are having to work until later in life, Dr Bingham sees older workers as vessels of untapped potential.

She believes organisations can shift their strategic processes to offer a holistic workforce opportunity of value to both employee and employer. Practices for this could include intergenerational and intragenerational learning, mentoring and providing opportunities for career progression.

One research participant noted that “there is an appetite for collegial and peer working where you share knowledge in a slightly structured way. Having multigenerational learning and learning circles – both older and younger people get energised by that.”

Dr Bingham said: “The central proposition presented in the book is that the achievement of flourishing and potential cannot and should not be the singular premise of younger workers. An important approach to encouraging older worker retention would be through older workers being given and taking up learning and development opportunities.

“Empowering older workers through learning and development turns ageing in workplaces on its head. This book looks to reimagine older workplaces to capitalise on older workers’ possibilities in a time of intense demographic and digital change.”

‘Older Workforces: Re-imagining Later Life Learning’ was published by Routledge on February 11 2019.

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