analysis of the changing working life and training of older workers
particularly related to SMEs led to the following results:
competence of older workers was generally highly valued. Differences
in it were addressed to individual characteristics but not to age. Systematic
monitoring or documenting of competence did not exist, but that of experienced
workers was acknowledged and utilised internally e.g. in mentoring. Competence
was both individual and collective, and viewed to base more on work experience
and personal characteristics than on formal training.
in working life and workplaces challenged the learning of older
workers like their younger colleagues, but also reduced their opportunities
for learning, due to workload and time pressures. In some cases the former
chose a more adjusting than participating strategy amidst of the changes.
Age was not related to how ‘invitational’ workplaces were experienced as
learning environments, nor to the subjective assessments of learning attitudes,
skills, or motivation, except to memory and speed of learning. Stronger
variation was found between sectors and companies. New technology was the
biggest learning challenge to all employees. No general rule applied, however:
in some SMEs older workers managed well with new technology, as acknowledged
by their younger colleagues, in some it was causing their exit. Learning
was preferred as practice-based and it was highly social and collegially
Older workers participated in informal and non-formal training like
younger workers, but less in formal training and within industry. Learning
culture was rather positive, somewhat less so among management, but with
variation across sectors, least in those with low-skilled jobs. Employees
were less satisfied with feedback systems and to encouragement from management.
development of younger workers was more visible and systematic (e.g.
mentoring), older workers were more viewed as contributors and ‘teachers’
rather than as in need for learning and development (except in IT). HRD
strategies and initiatives involving older workers seemed to function best
when build and tailored to adjust to 'local' situation and circumstances
in the company. More attention should be paid on practical training consequences
to motivate experienced employees in SMEs to develop themselves further.
Responding to the new learning imperative in working life and utilising
the diversity of the personnel challenges the competence of their management
in a way, which is crucial to the development of SMEs towards learning
organisations, especially in older occupations and companies. To meet
this challenge, management in SMEs needs support to develop awareness of
and practice in HRD-related issues. Diversity in competence is typically
utilised collegially, also under inter-generational solidarity, contributing
to continuity in workplaces to counterbalance the continuous changes. It
should and could, however, be utilised more systematically in companies
to improve workplaces as functional environments. Increased value of informal,
experience-based knowledge seemed to give credit to the competence of older
workers and balance the views relative to that of younger workers.
Successful work-based learning and training interventions involving older
workers have potential for improving their motivation for learning,
for strengthening their self-confidence and organisational commitment,
and for improving the social climate in groups with mixed ages (Tikkanen
et al. 2001, p.i).