How to upskill an aging workforce

At the 2019 MIT CIO Symposium, Amy DeCastro of Schneider Electric discussed the benefits of a workforce with age diversity.

How to upskill an aging workforce

At the 2019 MIT CIO Symposium, TechRepublic Senior Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome spoke with Amy DeCastro of Schneider Electric about the benefits of a workforce with age diversity. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

Alison DeNisco Rayome: We know that the modern workforce, and particularly the baby boomers, are beginning to age. What are some ways that organizations can upskill an aging population?

Amy DeCastro: I think what's important is our baby boomers have been with us for so many years. They have great information, great legacy knowledge, and it's important for us to capture that, capture that from a knowledge transfer, but then also give them an opportunity to learn some new things. What we really look for when we're looking at a workforce is overall diversity. I think it's easy just to call out an aging workforce, but really what I think we need to look at is how do we leverage that expertise, right? Reskilling is sometimes important, but using that legacy knowledge to make sure that we're transferring that to our newer workforce is equally important.

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Specifically, we've created mentoring programs, so where are baby boomers who have all of this historical knowledge with us are working very closely with our newer entry-level workforce to make sure that we're partnering, almost to get a reverse mentoring opportunity as well. You have to have a willingness to learn as well, so some of our baby boomers that might be two, three years from retirement are raising their hand and saying, "Hey, would you be flexible? Would you let us maybe work part-time?" That's another way that we're actually accommodating some of the requests that we're getting, giving that older workforce opportunity to exit in a phased process. I will tell you, we have so many talents that have been with us for so long and we're, "Saying please don't go," right? So, we don't necessarily have a strong problem of people not being willing to be upskilled, we're more focused on how do we retain the knowledge that these people have and what they can offer us.

Another example of what we've done is within our field services organization, we've had legacy employees who know our customer, who have a relationship, who know our products in and out, that are raising their hand and saying, "Hey, I'd like to retire." What we're doing is we're partnering them to create training programs to make sure that we're really using everything that we can and while we're doing that, upskilling them because everything's digital, right? A lot of these educational programs that they're working on from a knowledge transfer standpoint are now on applications and platforms that they've never used before. But it's nice to see when you have those experiences where someone who's out in the field, that's used to paper and living out of a car, now working from a tablet and being very comfortable in that space. Those are some of the things that we've done to accommodate the aging workforce.

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