Age is no barrier to embracing new technology.

Over 50s are often considered to be resistant to change and technophobic.  But this is nothing more than a stereotype that is past its sell-by date, according to a new study by Dropbox and market research firm Ipsos Mori.  The two companies surveyed 4,073 workers in the US and Europe about their use of technology in the workplace.  Of these, 984 were aged between 45 and 54 and 1,337 of the survey group were 55+.

The results are not what many would expect.

Older workers use, on average, 4.9 different types of technology per week – against an overall average of 4.7, and they also found using technology in the workplace less stressful than their younger counterparts.  Only 24 per cent of the 55+ age group said they found technology at work stressful, compared to 30 per cent of 18–34 year olds.

Millennials still think that older workers are slower at getting to grips with technology, though.  59 per cent of 18–34 year olds believe this to be the case against 38 per cent of 55+ year olds.

The AARP Foundation, the charitable arm of a group for seniors in the US, also found in a recent study that older workers are adept at using new technology, including social media and the internet, and are eager to learn new tech skills.  AARP Foundation is working with the Clinton Global Initiative and the College of America to provide workers over 50s with the opportunity to build technology skills and pursue degrees.  The biggest hurdle, according to the AARP, is “helping older workers understand just how valuable they are” by changing corporate culture and disrupting old ways of thinking. 

Company culture more important than age

A survey of 3,000 UK workers commissioned by Cisco and the Institute of Cultural Capital (ICC) found that creating a positive digital culture in the workplace and encouraging worker confidence in digital tools was more important than age.

“In today’s digital workplace, it is fair to say that we are all probably guilty of assuming that someone’s generation influences the expected ease with which they are able to adapt to new digital ways of working,” explained Professor Simeon Yates of the ICC. “Our findings suggest it may be time to revisit our perception of digital natives or millennials. We found that workplace confidence and home confidence are not strongly linked. We also found that age is not a determining factor for confidence with digital technology in either setting.”

The survey found that organizational culture had a bigger impact on the rates of digital adoption. For example, the more time an organization spends consulting staff and building a culture that nurtures an acceptance of change, the more effective the implementation of digital technology is. Unfortunately, 64 per cent of workers in the Cisco/ICC survey stated that they weren’t consulted prior to the provision of new digital technologies.

Don’t force new technology on staff without training

According to the Cisco/ICC research, workers want greater dialogue on the digitalization of their organization and the digital workspace.  A startling 40 per cent stated that the digital technology being rolled out in their organization wasn’t explained effectively and 57 per cent said they would like more information on how to use the new technology being deployed.

Leadership also came under fire in the communication strategy. Just under of a third (29 per cent) of respondents stated that they thought the leadership team was struggling to push through new digital ways of working and that their organization is not ‘culturally ready’ to embrace digital solutions.

Enterprises cannot rely on a workforce to bring their personal expertise to the digital workspace. “Social media-savvy millennials may not be the solution to help them face digital disruption and transformation,” explains Professor Yates. 

A mature approach

Older workers can contribute much in knowledge and skills to businesses.  Here are a few recommendations to help your experienced staff continue to be a productive part of the team:

  • Ensure they are included in new technology training courses so that they can contribute even more to the organization’s infrastructure Encourage older workers to be part of leadership and innovation programs
  • Acknowledge the experience older workers have and encourage them to share it
  • Set up mentoring programs.  Older workers can be invaluable mentors to younger colleagues.

User-centric computing and user communications are central to Orange Business’ ethos. To find out more about collaboration in the UC world here.