“I wasn’t needed anymore, and to have to start my career over at 49 years old…”Gen X worker, quoted in Marketwatch
CNBC just published an eye-opening article entitled Gen X workers may be facing the biggest unemployment crisis. According to the article, “Rapid digital adoption during the pandemic has accelerated the automation of jobs and worsened underlying ageism, making it harder for mid-career workers to secure roles…”
The COVID pandemic has accelerated many profound changes in the workplace. Perhaps most notably, it has forced companies (and workers) who may have resisted technology in the past to “adopt or die.” Ten years of technology adoption happened in the space of a year. Many workers have struggled mightily with this trend, including plenty of Millennials and Gen Zers who have inaccurately been billed as “digital natives.”
The reality is, older and more experienced employees have always faced ageism in the workplace. In fact, a stunning 82% of Americans over the age of 50 claim to have experienced prejudice, discrimination or stereotyping on some level. One of the most common stereotypes around older workers relates to their perceived lack of technology skills and an unwillingness to learn new things.
At pelotonRPM, we see the technology skills gap up close and personal, and it certainly is not limited to Gen X and Baby Boomers. What we don’t see is a lack of willingness among the Gen X crowd to learn new things. At least, not anymore. In fact, we see the opposite. Prior to COVID, when technology was viewed as more of a hassle by many older workers, we saw more of that mindset. But now, perhaps because so many realize their livelihood is at stake, older workers are generally more receptive to tech-related upskilling and reskilling initiatives.
Surprising to many, there is also evidence that Gen X has weathered the COVID workplace storm better than Millennials, particularly as it pertains to soft skills. Adobe Workfront‘s 2021 State of Work Study (download HERE) showed that Gen X workers felt they had improved their ability to communicate ideas (+8%) and express opinions (+8%) in the workplace while Millennials registered a slight improvement of just 1%. Gen Xers felt similarly confident around their ability to build trust and navigate difficult conversations in the workplace – both of which are invaluable skills. An interesting article by The Ladders asserted that Gen X is much more adept in terms of soft skills since they started their careers before technology like the mobile phone became so commonplace. As Gen X gets pushed aside, the soft skills skills gap threatens to become even more acute.