An increasing number of mature workers feel left behind as a result of the rapid digitalisation in the workplace.
While digital transformation is lauded for democratising data, reducing costs, and improving productivity and efficiency, digitalisation when done haphazardly can also cause older employees to be left out.
This is of particular concern to Singapore, with the US International Trade Administration citing figures which show that one in four of the country’s population will be over the age of 65 by 2030. Meanwhile, a report by Mercer warns that despite Singapore’s highly developed economy, a significant portion of its older worker populations are at higher risk of displacement due to lack of digital adoption than many other sampled nations.
Senior workers report experiencing “tech fear” in the workplace. This fear of technology increased during pandemic lockdowns when companies quickly accelerated digital transformation plans to support the needs of everyone working, studying, and shopping from home.
Digital divides are bad for staff morale and the wider business
Learning how to use new technology and getting up to speed with digitally-led processes, are major challenges for many senior workers. Workers of advanced age usually do not master new digital technologies as quickly as their younger colleagues, and it has become a barrier for them in the workplace.
Even established employees returning to the office after months of working from home have struggled to adjust to new systems, software, and technologies installed during lockdown periods. Those who operate at a lower level of digital dexterity or those who are simply new to the company, role, or industry are effectively disadvantaged on the job. This is true across industries, from fast food workers using software systems to place orders, to knowledge workers navigating in and out of dozens of business applications throughout the workday.
A digitally divided workplace is also bad for business as it weakens opportunities to drive up productivity, collaboration, innovation, and attracting new talent.
These outcomes, coupled with the fact that the proportion of over 50s in work is set to hit a record high of 47% by 2030 (as per a 2021 Legal & General report), send a strong message to organisations: not promoting digital inclusivity today may hurt your bottom line tomorrow.
Solving complex issues with DAPs
Proactive digital adoption programmes provide a practical and seamless way to advance digital inclusion. For instance, the Singapore government’s Digital for Life initiative can be a bellwether in galvanising organisations to give their mature employees the necessary guidance and help so that they feel excited, empowered, and enriched by digital technologies.
Reaching out to senior staffers to better understand and identify their barriers of entry – in terms of software, devices, new processes, and more – is a recommended first step. However, ultimately, action must be taken to help bridge the gap in technical abilities among staff.
Poor user interface and user experiences are some of the common barriers raised by senior workers and these can be addressed, relatively easily, after consultation with affected workers.
New training styles can also be adopted. Rather than expecting workers to remember things taught in a training session, on-screen guidance can allow users to understand how to use digital products at their own pace. Digital adoption platforms (DAPs) can level the playing field for people with varying degrees of digital dexterity by providing the end user with custom on-screen guidance across applications, which provides organisations with actionable data insights to improve the user experience. DAPs also have the ability to provide insights into the user experience so that fast solutions can be deployed and repetitive tasks can be automated.
These on-screen solutions can also reduce the pressure of technology onboarding because users can understand how to use new or infrequently used software whenever they need to, by following the on-screen real-time guidance rather than having to attend a course. On-the-job learning is also more user-friendly and empowering, and helps employees to overcome tech fears faster.
Accelerating digitalisation through people
Ageing workforces, coupled with remote and hybrid working, will continue to increase demand for solutions like DAPs that can level the digital playing field. These solutions will become central to the employee experience. Given the demographics, future workplace technologies must foster a broader spectrum of users. Forward-thinking organisations are able to provide all employees with access to guidance and support that are always accessible and easy to follow for both digital natives, as well as employees who only more recently discovered digital technology.
This is ultimately good for business. Such companies have the advantage of leveraging a broad range of experiences, expertise, and market insights. It would be a huge missed opportunity if some individuals were excluded because of technological barriers.
Senior staffers can also be provided with digital support and knowledge to fill current talent gaps to keep thriving and growing in today’s workplace.
For Singaporean businesses, there is real value in ensuring all workers are equipped to move in step with digital transformation efforts. Taking a more employee-centric approach enables businesses to unlock significant business value from their human resources, while the flipside is a loss of competent and established talent in the midst of the current talent shortages.