Older workers are quite capable of learning new skills, tasks and procedures, but they may experience discomfort with technology and other changes that younger workers often embrace. Sometimes with good reason, older workers may be resistant to or skeptical of the “next big thing” as they have been around long enough to see things come and go. But as people age, it can also be more difficult mentally to deal with change and easier to stay with or revert to the old way of doing things.

As older workers may be set in their existing habits, procedures and skill sets, complacency can set in as well as risk-taking shortcuts. No matter the root cause of a complacent attitude, it can happen in two ways:

Intentional complacency happens when an employee knows that the activity they are performing is not safe and that there is a significant amount of risk associated with the activity. This employee is usually acting against a company policy or official procedure.

Habitual complacency happens when an employee may be on autopilot. This employee knows the risks but has been doing the activity “that way” for so long they are no longer as alert to the risks and hazards.

To help reduce complacency and the risk of injury among your workforce, try the following:


    • Allow appropriate time for training. Consider implementing self-paced learning schedules.
    • Make help easily available and accessible.
    • Ensure that the training environment is free from distractions.
    • Use well-organized training material with relevant information highlighted.
    • Address concerns about equipment or technology.
    • Provide enough practice to reinforce learning.
    • Provide an active learning situation, allowing workers to experience new, safer ways to accomplish tasks.
    • Communicate and reinforce that “old dogs can learn new tricks.”
    • Make trainings and refreshers mandatory – everybody in the company works safely.


    • Have an open conversation about employees’ concerns with a new procedure or training.
    • Identify solutions to prevent them from going back to old habits.
    • Ask for suggestions on how to perform a task better.
    • Use their experience to help teach the new procedure, equipment or training curriculum.
    • Ask them to share a story of an accident with the old process. Then compare how the new method could eliminate or reduce the chance of that accident happening.
    • Be clear about the “so what.” Articulate clearly your end goal and the reasons for the new procedures, systems or job tasks.