Technological innovation has remarkably transformed “how” organizations do business but, along the way, it has also created certain assumptions about its effect on “who” does business.
A common perception about technology’s impact on workforce operations – in any industry – is that “longer-tenured” workers (and their leaders!) are either unwilling or unable to adapt to new systems that enable organizations to embrace new efficiencies in a highly-competitive global economy.
In the minds of many, the path to successfully embracing digital transformation is often blocked by technophobe employees who operate at all levels of an organization. Whether these suppositions come from the simple ignorance of youth, or long-established inter-generational tensions, is a discussion best pursued elsewhere.
But having worked closely with organizations of all stripes to identify, develop, and implement the types of technological tools designed to maximize business operations, we are sure of one thing: Measuring an employee’s age as a qualifier for embracing technological innovation is one sure-fire way to sabotage your enterprise’s future success.
Check Your (Ageist) Assumptions
Digital transformation is one of today’s key buzz terms. We’ve been promised that technology will dramatically reshape our organizations. It is also somehow implied that your employees of a certain age/experience level will likely become a secondary consideration.
Want our advice? Take age out of the equation and focus on performance. The true measure of “digital transformation” is not the technology being used. Rather, it’s what a company does with that technology to enhance operations that determines one’s success or failure.
We’ve seen, heard, and read many “experts” who are quick to write off employees who began their careers in the pre-digital age as highly resistant to technological change. That’s a dangerous assumption. To the contrary, these employees likely bring tremendous experience and insight – essential values that contribute greatly to the success of any organization.
A workplace team atmosphere, comprised of individuals with a multitude of experience, encourages knowledge-sharing and creates opportunities for more experienced personnel to step forward and serve as mentors.
Those same “seasoned veterans” are dedicated to success, highly-motivated, and are usually willing to do whatever is needed to improve your company’s operations and profitability. We all learn from those who came before us. Empowering your long-time employees to share their insights/experiences with their younger counterparts can be a game-changer and contribute greatly to the long-term success of your enterprise.
Experience Wanted; Leadership Needed
Skilled-worker shortages affect all industries. Simultaneously, workers ages 50 and up are living longer than ever before. There’s an incredible opportunity here for those willing to embrace it. We simply have to get past the idea that technology’s impact on operations is a zero-sum game. One does not necessarily have to choose between digital transformation and dedicated employees.
Technological advances and innovation tend to grow exponentially. For employees, the disruptions it may cause can also feel exponential. When faced with the prospect of adapting to new equipment –a Cloud-based ERP system or the latest version of a company’s operating software, perhaps – it is easy to see why long-time employees may feel threatened and worry for their livelihoods.
It is essential, therefore, for leaders to do everything possible to help employees realize that embracing new technology is an opportunity to make their jobs more fulfilling and more rewarding. No matter what career stage we find ourselves, we all spend a considerable amount of our time at work.
Wouldn’t we want to spend that time more effectively? Can’t we agree that devoting more of our time pursuing challenging, rewarding endeavors that contribute to our company’s success is far more appealing than focusing our energies on the mundane?
Reward Engaged Employees
Let’s now zoom out a bit and look at this from a different perspective. You’ve realized that experienced, motivated employees offer tremendous value to organizations that embrace digital transformation. New technology empowers employees to reach their full potential. It can also provide an organization’s leaders with the data necessary to recognize these highly-efficient, productive, engaged employees (no matter their age) and reward them accordingly.
Leaders who aren’t willing to consider the role longer-tenured employees might play in a company’s ongoing digital transformation are cutting themselves off from a tremendous wellspring of experience.
Find ways to leverage that experience for the organization’s benefit. Help these valued team members visualize how improved productivity leads to improved opportunities, and you’ll go a long way toward securing their support and ensuring continued operational success.