In Implementing workplace modifications strategies to retain workers we discussed strategies to change the physical environment to reduce risk of injuries and promote employee longevity. Because we live in the digital age, the internet and the devices we use to access it merit special consideration.
One of my passions is teaching adults to use technology. One day while teaching a man to use Facebook, I asked him to click the globe. He looked at me and said, “What globe?” I pointed to where it was on the screen. He leaned really close to the screen and declared, “That is a globe!”
Older Adults & Technology
A common stereotypes is that older adults cannot learn to use technology. Nothing could be further from the truth. I suspect many of the challenges older people face as they attempt to learn technology has more to do with poor usability than inability to learn. Usability refers to the ease with which a person can learn to operate a product and remember its operation upon subsequent uses.
I once owned an automatic pet feeder. It had three buttons. To access the programming menu, two buttons had to be pressed in the correct order. If I pressed the wrong two buttons, the hopper would start dropping food in the bowl and not stop until I pressed the correct combination of buttons. Once I finally got to the programming menu, setting up meal size and time was a whole new ordeal in poor usability. And this happened every time I changed the batteries.
Technology is a cornerstone of many workplaces. Many people use computers, the Internet, email, and other technologies to complete their employment duties. What’s more, many activities related to employment require the employee to interact with some sort of technological system. For example, we use a web page to request annual leave and update personal information.
In Workforce Shortages: The BMW Solution computer screens with larger typeface were added to the assembly line. Purchasing specialized monitors is not necessary for many businesses. Both Microsoft and Apple products include accessibility features. The key may be to provide opportunities for employees to learn to use existing accessibility features to help them accomplish their duties.
Virtual Barriers & Usability
The need for technology modifications may emerge during website and software development to support organizational mission. Poorly designed websites and software can create virtual barriers to remaining in the work place. Returning to my story about teaching a man to use Facebook, the Globe icon is a darker shade of blue on a background of blue that is slightly lighter. The globe only turns white when there is an active notification. My story illustrates how something as simple as color choice can create virtual barriers.
Removing virtual barriers may be as simple as using effective color contrast and fonts. However, to effectively identify and remove virtual barriers, usability evaluations are the most effective tool. Usability evaluations measure how easy it is for a person to learn to use a product and remember its operation upon subsequent uses. User satisfaction is also an element of usability. Well executed usability evaluations are conducted with users of all ages and abilities.
Usability evaluations during technology and website development may require additional business resources (time, money, etc.). This may seem overwhelming, but consider workforce shortages that industries across the country are experiencing. The cost of losing employees who have a poor experience interacting with workplace technology will be greater. Businesses will be unable to grow and expand without a robust workforce.
Workforce Shortages: Beyond the Retirement Crisis
Do you want to read more about retaining older workers? Please read Workforce Shortages: Beyond the Retirement Crisis. Our next article in the series will discuss barriers outside the workplace that may play a role in workforce shortages.