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  • Immagine del redattoreCristina Bombelli

HRM practices for an ageing Italian workforce: the role of training

Con Alessandra Lazazzara



The aim of this paper is to explore ageing trends and age stereotypes about older workers, focusing primarily on the Italian employment context.


Beginning from a review of the literature on ageing, the paper a) outlines ageing trends and discriminatory behaviours against older workers in Italy, b) identifies patterns in the age discrimination phenomenon based on organisational characteristics, c) describes training-based good practices for enhancing the employability of older workers, as implemented by an Italian energy company, d) presents a range of best practices for age management.


Despite trends towards an ageing general population and an ageing workforce, there is overwhelming evidence of age discrimination against older workers. This paper reports that the age at which workers may be considered “old” is not clearly defined in the literature and that age discrimination does not follow the same pattern across work contexts. In particular, both organisational characteristics and the particular position held by the employee influence discriminatory behaviour towards older workers on the part of employers. Furthermore, although older workers enjoy fewer training opportunities, training is the most widespread policy for dealing with age discrimination.

Practical implications

This paper points up important implications for human resource professionals and employers with regard to how to optimize an ageing workforce scenario.


The paper provides an in-depth overview of ageing trends within Italian society and culture and outlines the possible implications for both older workers and organisations.

Keywords: Ageing, Ageism, Age Management, Italy, Training

Paper type: Case Study

Conclusions and Discussion

Our focus in this article is the Italian employment context and its issues of an ageing workforce, negative age stereotypes about older workers and a managerial requirement to change an employment culture which traditionally assigns inferior status to older workers, running the risk of losing their valuable legacy of knowledge and competences.

Italian companies face a challenging demographic scenario characterized by ageing trends in the population and in the workforce that will lead to future shortages in terms of workforce supply and skills due to the shrinking pool of young people entering the labour market. In addition, stereotypes about older workers in terms of poor performance, resistance to change and lower ability to learn, perceived high absenteeism and physical and mental decline, influence human resource management policies, penalizing older workers and perpetuating early retirement patterns and a low rate of older worker participation. This represents a double loss to companies as they lose valuable know-how and key skills and at the same time underestimate future difficulties in sourcing qualified employees.

The future of the economy and the development of an entire nation thus depend on an adequate age management approach. The key to success is the promotion of continuous learning in order to retain and motivate older workers, maintain skill levels within the organisation and enhance the employability of senior employees.

The issue of how to enhance the human and intellectual value of older workers is well-illustrated by the project developed and implemented by the management of Eni, which provides an example of good training-based practice for managing and developing older workers. In this project, older workers are both the target of the development project and the main actors in communicating company know-how to other colleagues.

Age management strategies must be part of an integrated and continuous process, involving, as suggested by Walker (1998) and Taylor (2006): an emphasis on the long-term; prevention of age management problems by avoiding loss of skills on the part of older workers through continuous training; a focus on the entire working life of all age groups, not just the elderly; a holistic approach that embraces all dimensions and all actors in an effective age management program; adoption of measures in favour of older workers both in terms of training and well-being at work; changing attitudes towards older workers throughout the organisation by educating people to the needs of age diversity and regular assessments of the effectiveness of age management policies and initiatives.

In conclusion, we believe that adopting age management as a strategic goal for human resource management practices and using training as a key element of this process constitute an effective starting point for companies aiming to adequately address the challenges of an ageing workforce.


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