The challenge of managing the aging workforce: Learning networks to decrease skill obsolescence and increase employability


Simon Beausaert, Mien Segers en Wim Gijselaers

Co-operation with FME.

Further information

Introduction and position in the current literature
Today’s combination of an aging workforce on the one hand and increased competition and innovations on the other, puts professional development of aging employees high on the strategic agenda. Previously attention has been paid to formal learning such as training design and learning tools that encourage employees to maintain and improve their expertise.1) 2) However, recently human resource management departments came to realize that those forms of formal learning are not sufficient. In addition there is a need for informal learning, which can best be established by the presence of a supportive learning network.3) 4) In a learning network professional are actively involved in their professional development process.5) There are daily actions and interactions as source of information to nourish their professional development. It is a continuous process of seeking information and reflecting and acting upon.6) Feedback and especially feedforward play a central role.7) It is of great importance for HRM to know more about the characteristics of the learning network their employees work in to influence this learning environment positively and make aging employees learn and develop.

Research questions & hypothesis
This project will research if the presence of a supportive environment influences aging employees’ skills obsolescence8) 9) 10) and in turn their employability.10) 11) 12) We believe that a higher age does not necessarily lead towards skills obsolescence and lower employability if a supportive learning network is present.

Research methods

  • Cross-sectional studies will be set up in order to validate our theoretical model.
  • A series of intervention studies will be organized in order to test the influence of the learning network of the aging employee on the outcome variables.
  • Interview studies will be set up in order to go beyond statistics and gain a more detailed view on the influence of the different characteristics of the learning network on the outcome variables.

Results & follow-ups
Many companies have become aware of the limited power of formal training programs and are looking at how workplace learning (or informal learning; learning as an inherent part of the daily work) can be encouraged and supported. In this context, this diagnostic tool in the format of an app measures the strengths and weaknesses of a company (or unit) in terms of informal learning and employability. When professionals fill in the survey, they will receive immediate feedback on their informal learning and how this is related to their employability. This tool provides organizations a basis for structurally supporting the exchange of knowledge and feedback in the workplace (two powerful components  of informal learning) thereby increasing employability. For more information click here

Jos van Erp, ‘CMS Maarheeze draagt enthousiast bij aan onderzoek’ (article in Dutch), High Tech NL.
Jos van Erp, ‘Een kunstenaar gaat nooit met pensioen’, (article in Dutch), High Tech NL.

Froehlich, D. E., Beausaert, S. A. J., & Segers, M. S. R. (2012). Old and Out? A social network approach towards age, self-responsibility, and their effects on employability. Paper presented at the EARLI SIG 14. Antwerp.
Froehlich, D. E., Beausaert, S. A. J., & Segers, M. S. R. (2013a). It’s All about the Attitudes, not the Age: The Role of Future Time Perspective and Goal Orientation for Older Employees’ Employability. Paper presented at the 15th biennal EARLI conference for research on learning and instruction. Munich.
Froehlich, D. E., Beausaert, S. A. J., & Segers, M. S. R. (2013b). Learning to Stay Employable: The Relationship between Age, Formal and Informal Learning, and Employability. Paper presented at the 15th biennal EARLI conference for research on learning and instruction. Munich.
Froehlich, D. E., Beausaert, S. A. J., & Segers, M. S. R. (2014). Work-Related Informal Learning in a Social Context: Development and Validation of a Scale measuring Information, Feedback, and Help Seeking in the Workplace. Poster presented at the AERA Annual Meeting. Philadelphia.



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