Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Impact of Aging on Self-Efficacy and Computer Skill Acquisition

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Impact of Aging on Self-Efficacy and Computer Skill Acquisition

Article excerpt

Based on current trends, U.S. demographics reflect rapid growth of the "older" segment of the workforce. Workers more than 50 years old represent the largest growing labor force segment in America. The social security administration projects that in 10 years the number of people at retirement age will double. However, it remains unclear whether or not this new "older" segment of the population can and will retire. Some will be forced to continue employment to replenish diminished retirement funds. Non-economic factors, such as stress and education, may also influence older workers' continued participation in the workforce, especially for women (Hill, 2002). "With nearly one-fifth of the population of the industrialized world soon to be beyond a traditional retirement age, businesses need to re-appraise their attitudes towards both older workers and older customers" (Tempest et al., 2002: 475).

At the same time, the predicted labor shortage due to the "baby bust" will force employers to examine available human resources. Stereotyped as being slow and inflexible, older workers may quickly get dismissed by companies seeking expedient solutions in a technologically changing environment with high competitive pressures. Parks argues, "an untapped pool of older workers is being unfairly ignored" (1998: 70). In this study, we examine older workers' abilities to develop technological skills, in comparison to younger workers. Development of computer competence among older workers could lessen the shortage of technical workers in this country and increase their contribution to economic growth.

Examination of the relationship between older workers and technology is not new, but with the graying of America's workforce, researchers are beginning to focus attention on the specific barriers older workers confront when using new technology (Czaja and Sharit, 1993; Dyck and Smither, 1994). Age-related factors do exist that may inhibit older workers' abilities to use computer technology, such as age-related differences in cognitive processes, memory, and learning styles (Garfein et al., 1993; Westerman et al., 1995). Less exposure to and experience with computer technology may also lower older workers' performance relative to younger workers (e.g., Dyck and Smither, 1994). Older workers may, in fact, limit themselves by perceiving their value as low in a high-tech society. However, little empirical evidence exists to validate whether, or why, age differences might exist in computer performance.

This study draws on self-efficacy theory to propose that age-related differences in the amount of computer skills acquired can be explained by age-related confidence in operating the computer technology, rather than a direct impact of chronological age. Focusing on belief systems may help guide future research on older workers toward developing success-oriented training and work cultures. Attitude toward change is introduced as a potential moderator of the relation between age and computer self-efficacy (CSE). Following the methods and results sections, the article concludes with a discussion of the findings.


High-tech workers use technology to both solve problems and create opportunities to promote an organization's competitive advantage. Rapid and radical technological changes, however, can deteriorate the sense of efficacy in even the most proficient workers (Hill et al., 1987). Self-efficacy generally refers to a person's belief in his/her ability to successfully perform a specific task (Bandura, 1982). Prior research demonstrates a positive relationship between self-efficacy and job outcomes (Gist and Mitchell, 1992; Stajkovic and Luthans, 1998). McDonald and Siegall refined the notion of self-efficacy in the context of high-tech jobs as "technological self-efficacy" or "the belief in one's ability

to successfully perform a technologically sophisticated new task" (1992: 467). …

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