How to introduce manufacturing automation to older employees

March 1, 2022

Automation may be the way of the future – but that doesn't mean older employees should be stuck in the past.

At nearly 3 million workers, roughly 20% of the American manufacturing workforce is currently aged 55 or older, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's a lot of employees who may be resistant to change. To truly realize the benefits that new technologies provide, it's imperative that manufacturers break down barriers and help aging workers thrive in the modern workplace.

Here are five steps to take when introducing automation to your older employees:

1. Give older workers advance notice of impending changes
Be sure to reach out to your older generation of employees to gauge their opinion on automation. Not only does this give them a fair warning that new technologies are around the corner, but it also helps you identify areas where automation could best be introduced in the workplace. Focusing on these areas is a great starting point that increases the likelihood of successful implementation for aging employees.

2. Be sure to define why each technology is relevant to the job
Regardless of age, helping your workforce understand the purpose of automation will go a long way toward successful implementation. By knowing why the change is needed and how it will help the company, older workers can ease their concerns and trust that it's best for business.

3. Explain to your employees how automation can benefit them personally
The good news for your older workers is that automation isn't an obstacle to be overcome – it's a change to be embraced. Sitting down with your employees and going over the benefits will help break down hesitations and eliminate concerns.

Be sure to emphasize the opportunity to grow as a professional in the later stages of their career. Automation upskills the brain, not the body – a major benefit as the physical toll of manufacturing becomes too demanding. Better yet, automating strenuous tasks and learning new skills can help older workers prolong their careers.

4. Conduct hands-on training sessions
According to Workforce50, the way you teach technology is just as important as who you teach it to. When introducing automation to older generations, it's worthwhile to invest in a training session that best fits their learning styles. This means slower demonstrations, hands-on application and plenty of repetition. Most importantly, be sure to identify a suitable trainer who won't talk down or patronize aging employees as they develop their skills.

5. Leverage your younger employees as tech mentors
Younger generations are digital natives, which makes adopting new technologies a fairly painless endeavor. But even better? It means they're perfect mentors for their older peers. Encourage your Millennial or Gen Z workers to provide assistance when necessary. This not only empowers older generations to learn effectively but also establishes a culture of mutual development.