With recent headlines like Baby boomers are killing the idea of retirement and want to work forever in Fortune and Millions of baby boomers have left the workplace since 2020. Are they coming back? in the Washington Post, people are talking about the future of seniors in the workforce as the pandemic’s grip on society loosens while hybrid work seems to stick around.
While age and generation are often less thought of as diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) priorities, with only 8% of companies formally including them in their DEI strategy,1 the internet is ablaze with the topic of seniors at work from Reddit to LinkedIn. The rapid digital transformation waves that washed over the workforce in the past two years have left some seniors feeling even more intimidated when getting back to their pre-pandemic roles or taking on the challenge of finding a new career move.
Technology is undeniably playing a role in the ostracization of seniors from the younger workforce. Software can be daunting, even for those who grew up surfing the web or using a smartphone. And when required workplace software is daunting to the point of inaccessibility, that is when it becomes a barrier to generational and educational inclusion in the workplace.
According to the US Department of Labor Statistics, the labor force participation rate of people aged 65 and older is projected to increase from 19.3% in 2016 to 21.8% in 2026. Almost half a million (480,000) workers aged 55 and older returned to the labor force in the past six months, compared with 180,000 in the six months before the pandemic hit, the Wall Street Journal recently reported. Seniors are indeed still working, and organizations and individuals alike will greatly benefit from coming up with a way for staff from all five generations in the workforce to be their most productive, best selves at work.
Technology for Generational Inclusivity in the Workplace
Though it might sound counterintuitive, technology can also be a solution for an inter-generational workplace. One way to bridge the generational divide is a Digital Adoption Platform (DAP), which sits on top of software like an invisible overlay, providing the user with customized guidance on software and applications. On the backend, DAPs provide insights into how employees are interacting with an organization’s technology stack to understand what’s working and helping people do their jobs versus what isn’t, and specifically where users are getting stuck. It’s a win-win situation for leadership and individual employees in that the ROI from a company’s technology investments are maximized and individuals can do their jobs most easily through the right user experience.
The customized experience with enterprise software can empower less tech-savvy individuals to thrive on the job. Even with extensive and expensive training sessions, enterprise software can often be daunting when using it for the first time or performing an infrequent action. Rather than having to remember what they learned in a training session, employees can simply follow guided on-screen tips to accomplish their goals, or even just type out what task they want to perform and a chatbot armed with automation and cross-linked applications takes care of the rest. DAPs drastically reduce the amount of “technology onboarding” required and guide users right on their screens, empowering them to embrace technology to do their jobs better.
With ongoing digital transformation and technology constantly advancing, jobs often evolve and an employee’s day to day tasks can change significantly. Even for younger employees who grew up in the digital age, this can be intimidating and frustrating. Now imagine what it must be like for those with less digital dexterity who took a two year sabbatical during the pandemic. New workplace software and applications certainly sound like a potential major barrier to success for many.
In the past two years alone, many professions have changed shape. Speech therapists, for example, now have to use technology to virtually evaluate patients, provide therapy and input their assessments into a software system. People who have been working for over forty years suddenly find themselves in roles that require higher degrees of technological know-how in order to be successful. After being good at their jobs for multiple decades, many Baby Boomers and members of the silent generation before them are finding that their success depends on their ability to harness technology. For many in this age group, continuing to work is not always a choice. In the current economic climate of rising inflation and gas prices, some seniors find their livelihoods quite literally depend on their ability to make peace with technology and continue to do well in today’s highly digitized workplace.
For these individuals, conquering technology with technology will be the game-changer. A DAP is one kind of such technology, as it is quite literally a digital concierge that can guide them to success. DAPs can help anywhere in which humans interact with applications, enabling employees to focus on their job at hand. Extending the proverbial olive branch of peace to even those who are least comfortable with technology, DAPs level the playing field for all generations of employees, helping everyone work smarter instead of harder.
1Harvard Business Review: Harnessing the Power of Age Diversity, March 8, 2022