Register for the 2024 Equity Summit
We are thrilled to announce that registration is now open for the highly anticipated Equity Summit 2024, taking place on September 24th in the heart of Washington D.C. and online. The Equity Summit is the only national conference focused solely on the issues impacting older workers and job seekers.
Register Now
February 29, 2024

Fostering Equal Access to Training Opportunities for Older Employees

An evidence-based case for investing in training older workers

Training older workers yields tangible and intangible ROI.

Workplace demographics are shifting. While fewer younger people are entering the workforce, older workers are growing in number and staying longer. With the pipeline for younger talent shrinking, investing in older workers will be imperative to staving off a human capital gap.

However, the majority of organizations tend to invest in, and tailor training for, younger staff. Not only does this practice undermine an age-diverse workforce and the multitude of benefits it brings, but it’s also a missed opportunity for the organization’s bottom line.

In this article, we delve into the importance of fostering equal access to training for older employees and strategies to promote inclusivity in training initiatives.

Understanding age-related biases

As it stands, training opportunities and investments are largely funneled to younger workers. A 2019 study showed that only 49% of employees ages 55 and older had not been offered job retraining in the past three years, compared to 84% of workers between 18 and 34 and 69% of workers between 35 and 54.

Persistent age bias and stereotypes drive this inequity. Older workers are thought to be less motivated to learn and more invested in other life priorities such as retirement—and therefore not a good training ROI.

These biases can manifest in unequal hiring and firing, promotion decisions and, crucially, access to training opportunities. Additionally, many training programs are designed for younger staff. Age discrimination further compounds these issues, creating barriers to training access based solely on age rather than merit or capability.

The case for equal training opportunities

Despite these challenges, there is a compelling case for promoting equal access to training for older employees.

Older workers are eager to learn new skills.

An AARP survey found that two-thirds of older workers, especially workers of color, are willing and eager to acquire new skills. Interest skyrockets to 94% when employers support additional training, with willingness being nearly universal (97%) among Hispanic/Latino survey respondents. Furthermore, African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino workers are even more eager than white workers to expand in-demand skill sets such as computer training, certifications and continuing education.

Older workers are more loyal to their employers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of workers ages 55 to 64, the median tenure—how long wage and salary workers have been with their current employer—was more than three times that of workers ages 25 to 34 years. Among workers aged 60 to 64, 53% had been employed for at least 10 years with their current employer, compared with just 9% of those ages 30 to 34.

Older workers boost productivity.

Recent research shows that older employees are more productive and can elevate productivity in others. Just a 10% share of older workers has a 4% lower turnover than average and boosts productivity by 1.1%.

For companies, a stronger representation of older workers translates into “improved profitability, the possibility to sell products at more competitive prices, a greater chance to raise market shares, increased scope to invest and a potential boost to [the organization’s] attractiveness as an employer.”

Strategies for promoting equal access to training

To address the disparities in training access, organizations must implement targeted strategies.

Tailor training programs to address the unique needs and learning preferences of older employees.

This may involve providing flexible learning formats, such as self-paced online courses or in-person workshops tailored to accommodate different learning styles.

Foster mentorship and peer support networks.

These relationships can help older employees navigate modern technologies and acquire new skills more effectively.

Secure leadership buy-in and organizational commitment.

Engaging stakeholders (HR professionals, managers and employees) in discussions about the importance of training equity can help build consensus and momentum for change.

Looking towards the future

Fostering equal access to training opportunities for older employees is not only a matter of fairness but also a business imperative. With a human capital gap on the horizon, businesses will benefit by keeping tenured and older workers longer.

For organizations seeking to thrive in an increasingly competitive and diverse marketplace, leveraging the tangible and intangible value of an older workforce can unlock the organization’s full potential and create a culture of lifelong learning and innovation.

The Latest

Read our analysis of the trends changing the landscape of work and the bold, data-driven solutions that can lead us to systemic, equitable change.

All Insights & Events