Motivating Elderly Employees for Training and Change


The new EU member states are faced more strongly with demographic change and an ageing workforce as a result of falling populations, due to low birthrates and net emigration.

 In the 1990ties during the transition process, many Eastern European countries adapted a policy of early retirement to avoid mass redundancies in their companies and large-scale unemployment. This policy was changing only slowly in the new century and today, the exit age from the labour market is still very low in many of the new member states. Retirement age was raised by 2 to 3 years to over 60 years in almost all new member states during the last years in order to increase labour market participation. But although most early-retirement programmes have been abandoned, the mindset of employees and employers has not changed so quickly and adequately: carrier planning for employees with 50 years of age or with 25-30 years of employment did not seem necessary.

 At the same time job tenure is still quite long in the new member states, despite the time of ‘one job for ones life time’ is over. There are many low-skilled workers working for decades in the same company and often even in the same type of work.

 The main target group of this project are elder workers, who have worked often for decades in the same job without any training or participation in job-rotation or any other measure that would require learning, and who cannot carry on with their job for various reasons:

  • the job got obsolete due to company restructuring 
  • they cannot do the job anymore because of health or safety reasons (night work, shift work etc. ..) 
  • the job got too demanding for them 

Analysing the reasons, why only so less elder even lesser low-skilled workers participate in training and other carrier programmes, it is often said that there are too less/not the right training offers for these persons. But this is only half of the truth. Many older and especially low-skilled workers refuse themselves to any change in their work environment. There is a low readiness for change and learning. Reasons are multifaceted: no experience with learning, bad learning experiences in the past, fear of failure, ….

Motivating and supporting these workers to accept and take part in a training, job rotation or any other HR management programme is a challenge for adult educators, HR managers and any other persons, who are involved in such restructuring processes at company level (such as worker representatives, managers of operational units etc.).  

We think that this problem is especially relevant for the new member states, because in these countries are still large production facilities employing low skilled workers at assembly lines. In Western countries such job have been become obsolete in the 1990ties as staff costs were too high and companies moved their production to either Eastern European countries or the Far East.