Help your senior workers master new technology with confidence
Thursday, October 04, 2018
As a manager, you no doubt greatly value the experience, talent and wisdom your senior team members bring to your organization. Yet you're probably aware that many workers in their 60s and older aren't as comfortable, or as proficient, with new technology as they might like to be. Why?
A new study from U.K. researchers finds that the fear of making mistakes is the main reason that older workers shy away from learning new computer skills; these workers also express concern that mastering unfamiliar technologies may be too difficult, or may take up too much valuable time.
These worries can result in a real lack of digital self-assurance — and may limit the scope and effectiveness of the work they can contribute to your company.
No worries, though: there are a number of simple and supportive steps that you can employ to help your senior workers learn what they need to know, and truly enjoy using fresh technology on the job.
As a result, they'll feel more useful, be more productive, and their digital contributions will benefit your next project greatly.
Identify your worker's computer comfort zone.
Researchers from the University of Central Arkansas reported that most older people actually use technology with ease in their private lives — surfing the web, and participating in social media in the same way as their younger counterparts, for example.
Ask your workers to explain what kind of internet use they regularly enjoy using out of the office. Then, once you hear what type of technology they already feel skilled at, tailor the work you need completed to their current capability.
For instance, a worker who tells you she routinely helps her grandson Google facts for his homework will most likely do a great job carrying out in-depth research on sales and marketing strategies with no extra, complex training required.
In what kind of environment do older workers learn unfamiliar skills best? According to a study from Georgia Tech, it's definitely not in the middle of a noisy office.
The study found that seniors often have trouble remembering key details because their brains tend to suck in irrelevant "surround sound" at the same time — meaning that they can't help take in a loud conversation their co-workers are having while trying to learn that new software program.
Find a secluded, quiet spot for your worker where he/she can work alone and better concentrate on a technical task.
Double up to offer support.
Pair your employee with one specific IT employee, who can be called on when needed to directly teach digital skills, troubleshoot mistakes, or answer quick questions via email or text. Try to team up duos you think will get along well, personality-wise.
That way, within a short time of working together, your senior worker and his/her tech-savvy partner can bond — when they enjoy tackling digital issues together, your employee will relax, and learning will become easier.
Monitor your worker's progress.
A monthly computer aptitude test — which should be given to all employees learning new technology, not just seniors — will go a long way toward identifying which areas your employee is becoming very good at, and which areas he/she needs to work on further.
You may see that your worker's results are very lopsided — he may be terrific at entering data, but may be completely stymied at dealing with a certain type of code, for example.
That's OK — consider assigning him work that relates entirely to his data comprehension, and avoid assigning any more code-related completely. This will allow him to focus on what he does best, and not waste time.
Ask your workers to self-evaluate.
Michigan State University researchers report that more than 95 percent of surveyed seniors report that they come to feel satisfied with the technology they use, with 72 percent reporting they actually want to learn further digital skills once they get started.
Ask your employees what kind of technical work they've come to enjoy, what kind of work they want to pursue in greater depth, and how accomplished they feel once they accomplish a new digital skill.
Let your worker know that Rome wasn't built in a day — achieving fresh new tech knowledge takes time. Explain you're willing to work with them to make their work as stress-free as possible, so they can accomplish even more. And last but not least: tell your senior workers how much you appreciate their effort!
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