Help Older Workers Close the Technology Gap

June 15th, 2012

Employees don’t all master new technology at the same pace. In fact, managers may see a striking gap between the ability of younger, Millennial workers and their Baby Boomer counterparts when it comes to using ever-changing technology in the workplace.

Rather than let the gap widen – inadvertently frustrating younger workers and making them impatient with their co-workers – there are management techniques to overcome the gap and keep everyone on the same page.

It starts with respect

If you’re managing an older worker, don’t patronize or treat him differently from others. He deserves your respect just like anyone else. Most likely he comes to the job with a lot more work experience than you have and may have skills you’re still learning to acquire. He may know from experience about how to make tough decisions, stay focused on one issue at a time or work with a difficult client. Your team will take its cue from you and also seek to learn from those who have been around awhile.

Offer opportunities for instruction

All employees should have access to the same technology – a vital first step towards ensuring that everyone learns to master the latest new development. Then schedule a class or workshop that focuses strictly on the use of the technology. Consider offering the class during the work-day even if it cuts into productivity; this sends the message that attending the workshop is encouraged and that it’s important enough not to make staff work after-hours or on the weekend.

Make learning a team effort

Set aside time for the entire team to work with new technology and brainstorm solutions to current workplace issues. Nothing makes a deeper impression than learning while on the job.

Mentoring

Probably there are one or two employees (age doesn’t matter) who catch on to new technology faster than the others. This is a great opportunity for them to pro-actively guide other team members in a situation where the manager/employee equation is irrelevant. Let the tech-savvy employee acquire the new skills first. Then he can instruct a handful of team members, who will assist other team members, and so on. Not only does this spread valuable working knowledge, it’s a great team-building exercise.

Remember, for every older worker who needs a bit more time and guidance in new technology, there are younger workers who can benefit from the experience and wisdom of others on the team. When there’s an atmosphere of camaraderie and collaboration – especially in the use of new software or apps, etc. – everyone prospers.

Check out Meador’s Staffing Resource Center for more helpful information on building a winning team.