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Motivating older workers


Has anyone got any information, tips,suggestions about older workers (over 50s) and their training needs. How do you keep them motivated especially when they have done ALL the training and perhaps reached the highest rung they're going to reach.
Penny Cole

8 Responses

  1. Motivating over 50s
    Hi Penny

    Classic issue. This answer is on the assumption that for some reason (TNA or otherwise), they do have to go through training, because of course, if like you say they have done ALL the training then perhaps there is no training need?

    Would you be referring to motivating them in the training room or in general?

    If the former, switch to facilitation mode and make the session VERY participative, get them talking about best practice and their experience and apply it to the training.

    Also take into account what training they’ve had before and try to engage them in something they’ve never heard or done before (NLP, EQ etc).

    Something must be keeping them in their role and it doesn’t sound like career progression!

    So find out what that X factor is and use that as your angle to motivate. Best of Luck!


  2. Try instead to find out what demotivates them.
    At this point in their lives they are at their most valuable to you.
    To lose them now will result in an incalculable loss of experience and wisdom.

    Why not treat them as if they are valuable.

    Try asking them what they need instead of assuming that they will respond to a formula.

    You will be giving them something that will make a huge difference.

    They will feel valued they will feel respected and they will understand that they are valued by the organisation.

    The difference this will make to the way they feel and therefore their ability to perform will astound you.

    While you are at it, is there any reason to treat the under 50’s differently?

  3. Beware Age Discrimination Legislation
    >>>While you are at it, is there any reason to treat the under 50’s differently?

    have to second this, once the age discrimination laws come into effect (Oct 06) you will fall foul of them by singling out training needs on the basis of age.

    If they have ‘done all the training’ why do you need to train them further. Motivational techniques involve more than simply training…organisational culture, management culture, benefits, praise, encouragement….

  4. Ageism?
    With the reality of an ageing workforce there’s no reason to assume that someone over 50 has reached the highest rung they’re going to reach. Or that they have little interest in their professional development.

    Long servers – irrespective of age – are a rich source of organisational memory and a useful resource for L&D and or change professionals.

  5. Get them involved
    One further point to add to everyone else’s: as your more mature staff are a wealth of knowledge and information I agree with getting them more actively involved with their own learning and development as suggested.

    In addition why not train any suitable people to run training sessions themselves? There may be specific subjects that they excel in and can therefore transfer their skills on to the rest of their team. This in itself would be motivating for them both in terms of giving responsibility and also in developing further skills.

  6. What’s the real problem?
    As an Older Worker myself I am a bit baffled by the question. I have no trouble keeping motivated. However, I work with a lot of client companies where the problem is motivating the twenty-somethings, or 30-somethings or 40-somethings. Career progression is really not the only satisfier.
    I would look to motivation generally in your organisation and see how satisfied everyone is from the top down, especially down. If you have lots of boring jobs, then the potential solution is job re-design, so it’s probably not a training issue at all but an OD issue. But how about doing the obvious and asking them?

  7. To each according to his need …
    from each according to his ability. (I recall a famous communist said something like that!)

    If the older workers don’t need training, don’t provide it.

    If they do need training but won’t admit it, try to get them involved as co-facilitators to share their extensive knowledge of the firm, industry etc. This is especially useful in corporate topics training.

    If they have an annual entitlement to training, find out what they want to do and provide it. Even something along the lines of how to retire in stages could be helpful.

    If they have training time allocations that won’t be used, why not enlist them into an organisational development project and ask them to consider an organisational problem and recommend possible solutions.

    People learn not only by attending classrooms and chalk and talk sessions.

    With some creativity, you’ll find some useful solutions.

  8. Penny asks ‘How to keep older workers (50+) motivated; remeber y
    The context I’m familiar with is in Industrial, production management. Not all, but many ‘older workers’ have gained much insight, through accumulated experience and training. Thye are often sensitive to younger trainers who bluntly don’t have the same level of insight. This does not mean that the ‘older workers’ do not have learning needs, it does mean that they may well need help in finding their ‘new avenues’ to explore.
    Perhaps confusingly, or frustratingly, for organisations the new avenues may be less immediately ‘work’ (Or read, employer!)related. Here’s the clever bit. If the ‘Training’ relates to a genuinely new skill, there should be no motivation issue, the worker cannot have done ‘All the training’ for something new. If the training is for a skill the individual already possesses, but, bizarrely, the ‘older’ worker still has to attend (!!!), then get the older workers who believe they possess the skill, to ‘run’ the training, and prove their possession of the skill! Major recognition and respect, much motivation. (If you’re a ‘needs based’ Maslow man, like me, that is!)This works for Skills. What about attitudes / behaviours? All you can work on here is intellectual honesty in challenging attitudes that the individual has the right to possess at home, but that perhaps have become illegal to espouse at work (Racism, sexism etc.) Might be fun to use the ageism of younger trainers, to highlight the problem! Tee Hee, only joking, intrigued to see ‘Older workers’ , ‘Over 50’, and ‘poor motivation’ juxtaposed!

    Cheers Tim

    So this girl on the train guessed my age spot on, 47, very rare. She said, so, are you a young old man, or an old young man…………….


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