Upskilling mature age workers: Identifying tech skills gaps

When planning a tech upskilling program for mature age workers, the first and foremost step is to identify the skills that they need. This involves not just speaking to them, but also consulting with team leaders and assessing workplace demands. Below are some key areas to consider:

Foundational tech skills

While younger employees might find it second nature to use multiple tabs in a web browser or to organise files and folders efficiently, the same can’t always be assumed for older workers who did not grow up with these technologies.

Basic digital literacy, also called baseline digital skills may need to be addressed before diving into more advanced topics. Examples of digital literacy skills that mature age workers may find difficult include:

  • Scrolling and navigating using a mouse or touchpad
  • Using a browser, including navigating between tabs
  • Understanding and organising files and folders, particularly when they are in the cloud rather than stored locally

In some cases foundational tech skills can be addressed by changes to the workplace setup rather than training. For example, many older workers are more skilled at using a mouse than a touchpad, so supplying them with a full size mouse to use with their laptop can improve productivity.

Standard business tools

The need for familiarity with standard business tools like Microsoft Office, Google Workspace, Zoom, etc., cannot be overstated. Most workplaces will have applications for the following areas, and a skills assessment will need to be completed for each:

  • Email
  • Calendar
  • Shared drive
  • Documents
  • Spreadsheets
  • Presentations
  • Video calls

Keep in mind that some mature age workers may have primarily used software that was locally installed on their computers. Transitioning them to cloud-based applications can represent a significant paradigm shift, and they might require targeted training to make this leap successfully.

Company-specific systems

Company-specific systems are systems that perform functions beyond the standard business tools. They can include accounting packages, CRMs, marketing software, or even custom built applications. The skills that a mature age worker will need for these systems depend on their role.

Many organisations also employ enterprise-grade software that’s highly customisable. Even if a mature age worker has experience with the same software at another company, it’s often configured differently. Therefore, specific training on how to navigate and use your customised version may be essential for seamless integration into your work processes.

Digital etiquette

As remote work becomes more prevalent and digital communication tools like Slack and Teams replace traditional modes of interaction, understanding digital etiquette becomes critical. This is a domain where older workers may lack fluency. Issues like improper use of emojis, when to use chat apps versus when to send an email, or even simple things like capitalisation and punctuation in digital communication, can lead to misunderstandings and negative perceptions. Providing training in digital etiquette can be as important for effective communication as any technical skill.

Different generations can also have different preferences when it comes to communication, and it can be useful to educate all age groups on these differences. For example, younger generations are significantly less likely to answer or make phone calls compared to older generations, and many even find it anxiety inducing.

Data privacy and security

With an increasing number of large scale data breaches being reported by companies, data privacy and security skills are increasingly vital for mature age workers in today’s digital landscape. The absence of these skills not only places the individual worker at risk of falling victim to scams or data breaches but also exposes the entire organisation to potential vulnerabilities.

Older employees, who may not have grown up in the digital age, can sometimes be unaware of the ever-evolving tactics used by cybercriminals. This makes them more susceptible to phishing attacks, insecure password practices, and other security risks that could lead to unauthorised access to sensitive data. For HR managers, upskilling mature age workers in data privacy and security is not just an investment in the employees but a critical component of the company’s overall risk management strategy.

In summary, the training needs for older workers can vary widely and should be assessed individually. Also, be cautious of the training method you choose. Older workers may respond differently to training styles compared to their younger counterparts, so a tailored approach might be more effective.

This post is part of our series Tech skills training for mature age workers: A comprehensive guide for employers

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