By Pol Arellano
A good company — a company that is able to achieve many brilliant things — is usually composed of a multi-generational workforce. This workforce is a healthy mix of driven and tech-savvy millennials, as well as experienced and I-know-every-darn-curveball-you-could-ever-throw-at-me generation Xers and baby boomers. And that, my friend, is a dream team if I do say so myself.
But as new technology continue to push bounds and create better work processes for companies everywhere, baby boomers and even some generation Xers are not able to adjust as well as the millennials — who basically grew up with Google and social media as their pacifiers.
Here are 5 tips on how to train older employees on new technology — so that they could finally see it as a new, reliable ally rather than a daunting, often times annoying and frustrating foe.
1. Develop a kick-ass new technology training program.
It’s important to create a solid training program that your multi-generational staff can benefit from.
Most of the time, trainings are done this way: A trainer stands up in front of a group and discusses how to navigate technology with a Powerpoint presentation. This is okay in terms of introducing your employees to what they’re going to be learning. But it won’t give them the opportunity to try things out themselves. Hence, the higher the chances are of them not mastering the training — or forgetting about it faster than you could say “generation X”.
To train groups of people, it would be ideal to do it in a room rigged with computers where your employees can do a test run of the technology themselves. Or if this is not feasible in your office environment, you can choose to conduct the training with around two or three employees at a time, with computers or laptops set up.
A hands-on approach is the way to go, especially for generation Xers and baby boomers who may be in need of more assistance. Remember: it’s highly important for you to effectively address any questions, be supportive of employees and their concerns, and assist them in every step of the process. You want to be able to teach older employees how to operate new technology and successfully build their confidence. Patience goes a long way!
Your training program should be in a clear and easy-to-understand manner and should have dedicated time for your employees to ask their questions. Post-training, it would be best to provide instructions with corresponding screenshots or even a training video that your employees can review anytime.
2. Show them the perks of embracing technology.
A good way of motivating employees (especially older employees) to willingly sit down and learn new technology is by showing them how it would best benefit them.
As older employees typically tend to prefer to spend more hours with their loved ones and away from their desks, you can educate them that just by learning digital tools they can do more while spending less number of hours in the office.
If your company allows for a virtual work setup for workers, training your older employees to embrace remote work tools (as well as the discipline involved in remote work — highly important!) will be beneficial. Not just for the employees — but for the company as well, with lower operations costs, reduced job attrition rates, and a decrease in the carbon footprint.
Another important perk of learning and mastering digital tools? Your generation Xers and baby boomers can advance their careers easier through the effective knowledge of technology. They can use these digital tools to take on bigger responsibilities easily and independently — and take on bigger and better titles, too.
3. Handle resistance like a true pro.
Technology is a tricky topic for most older employees — and as a company, you should be ready to handle resistance from certain employees when you attempt a company-wide tech training.
A company must be prepared to constructively deal with negative reactions to implementing the use of tech tools in the office. You can encourage your employees to see the benefits of learning new tools, tie the use of these new tools to new and improved standards of performance, and provide stellar resources for them to review, among other things.
Your trainers should have patience, and lots of it, when dealing with these kinds of employees. This is where solid training and tools come in. It’s highly important to ensure that employees are given ample time for training and developing new skills.
4. Inspire them to inspire others with technology.
What generation Xers and baby boomers lack in tech-savviness they make up for in experience and street smarts. What a company can do to encourage their older employees to use digital tools more is to inspire them to be an inspiration to others.
In your tech training sessions, you can incorporate online group discussion activities, wherein they can share their own knowledge and experiences with others while learning new information they can use to better hone their skills.
It’s also a good idea to encourage online collaboration activities between your younger and older staff. Your younger employees can share their tech knowledge and the older employees can do the same with their rich work experience and insights, helping one another better navigate their areas of expertise.
5. Give praise and helpful pointers when due.
Learning a new skill is an impressive feat — and you should always remind your older employees of their accomplishments. This will help motivate them to learn new tech skills and be proud of themselves in the process.
Positive feedback is extremely valuable — with a massive 69% of employees reporting that they’d work harder if their efforts were noticed.
Meanwhile, trainers should offer constructive criticism and corrective action privately. It’s good to remember that it’s not always easy to accept unfavorable feedback — especially on unfamiliar territory.