Majority of older workers feel like they’re being left behind
Despite the fact that many of today’s employees are working well into their 70s, the majority of older workers feel like they’re being left behind.
According to a recent survey of 1,000 employees in the United States by Cornerstone OnDemand Inc., 60 % of Baby Boomers feel insecure about their current skillsets, and 73% say their employers don’t help them identify the skills they need to develop for the future - a response that surprised Kim Cassady, chief talent officer at Cornerstone.
“Some call it the 100-year life,” she says, referring to the fact that people are living - and therefore working - longer. “So why aren’t employers investing in them?”
The report, Building an Adaptive Workforce: The Demand for Transparency and Skills Development, found that the Boomers aren’t alone - half of the U.S. workforce surveyed doesn’t believe they have the skills they need to withstand a layoff, and a majority don't feel supported by their employers to learn new skills.
Additionally, 53% of respondents aren’t sure they have the skills to withstand a future layoff - but 74% are eager to learn new skills or completely retrain in order to remain employable in the future.
“The workplace is changing at an unprecedented pace, and employees are trying to keep up,” says Cassady. “People want career resiliency, they are just having difficulty finding support from their employers. There’s a growing disparity between the skills employees need to succeed and those workers actually have.”
That is the main takeaway for employers, she adds - employees, regardless of age or stage in their career, want to learn new skills.
According to Cornerstone’s research, 83% of today’s workers consider continuous professional development to be essential, and 76% believe that learning new skills would give them more confidence at work.
Cassady says there’s “far too little urgency” around the growing skills gap caused by technology and the acceleration of business. As technology evolves, the skills gap - which she defines as the disparity between the skills employers need to succeed and those workers actually have - keeps getting wider.
“If your company isn’t already addressing this gap, it’s important to start now - because the trend isn’t going away,” she says, warning businesses that don’t could fall behind if the workforce - and therefore the companies they work at - are ill prepared for future opportunities.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, today there are fewer unemployed Americans (6.2 million) than there are open jobs (7.3 million), Cassady notes. She says it’s “entirely possible that if people had the right skills, we could be at full employment.”
And with competition for talent so tight, organizations can either see developing skills within their workforce as another workplace challenge – or a unique opportunity to be taken advantage of.
“By supporting skills development programs, organizations can build needed skillsets in-house, while at the same time boosting both productivity and morale,” Cassady says. “Plus, workforces that prioritize learning are more likely to push the envelope and contribute to innovation in the workplace.”
Development programs boost employees’ confidence, and in turn, result in higher engagement at work, she adds - a fact that, for HR managers tasked with developing training programs, may not be news.
When people are given the opportunity to learn and grow, they tend to be more engaged—and more engaged teams are more productive, Cassady says.
“In today’s hyper-competitive environment, those numbers represent the kind of edge that no company can afford to ignore,” she warns.
Another bonus is that companies who work to more effectively train employees, boost confidence in their skills and broaden their competencies tend to retain talent at a higher rate. Slashing turnover is huge, Cassady says, as it eliminates the cost of hiring replacement talent. It makes sense to invest employees’ time in developing the talent and skills they need to excel.
Cornerstone developed “the 5 for 20 challenge” which encourages employers to devote five per cent of employees’ time at work to learning. This has proven to reduce talent turnover by up to 20%. The results of the recent report highlight the need for employers to take investing in the future of the workforce seriously.
“Employers need to upskill existing employees with ongoing learning practices,” Cassady says. “This will encourage employees to continue to add new skills and be prepared for inevitable change.”
Ultimately, she notes, the responsibility for continuous learning falls on the employee. To stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive, employees must consistently develop their skills - they must “become lifelong learners with unquenchable curiosity.” But, of course, employers are in a position to help with this journey.
Cassady says rather than specializing their skillset and narrowing their opportunities, employees should be encouraged to offer support on projects outside their immediate job description.
“This can give them opportunities to ask questions, meet new people in the organization, understand the skills required for their career goals and identify new areas of interest,” she says, adding that in addition to reducing employee churn, learning can even address hiring challenges across the organization.
“According to research, people say they are likely to leave a company because they are not learning enough,” she adds.
As for managers who may be concerned about time lost to learning, Cassady argues they might actually find that learning improves their employees’ work, as research suggests a break from the employee’s traditional job can promote creative thinking and productivity.
Employees who engage in learning regularly are less likely to be stressed, more ready to take on additional responsibilities and more likely to feel confident and happy, she says - results that should encourage companies to use learning tools more often.