Intergenerational Learning Fosters Successful Aging at Work

Organizational knowledge transfer is no longer a one-way street from senior to junior employees. With employees working later in life, we see a fascinating trend: older workers actively seeking knowledge from their younger counterparts. This shift coincides with the increasing importance of age diversity for organizational success and the rapid pace of technological change, where younger generations often hold the edge. The current study (Pfrombeck et al., 2024) discovers what happens when older workers learn from younger colleagues.


Over a six-week period, the researchers surveyed 764 participants. The first survey measured knowledge acquisition from younger colleagues, followed by another survey which captured evaluations of perceived learning and feelings of embarrassment. In their final survey, the researchers assessed motivation to continue working and employees’ workability, which is defined as the motivation and ability to keep working and meet job demands.

The findings revealed a positive chain reaction: Acquiring knowledge from younger colleagues led to the perception of learning, which in turn, increased motivation to keep working and stronger workability. However, the study also identified a potential hurdle, as seeking knowledge was also associated with feeling embarrassed. While embarrassment didn’t directly impact motivation, it did decrease workability.


First, the authors recommend that organizations promote intergenerational interaction to break down age barriers and build positive relationships. This could involve casual lunches, team-building activities, or cross-generational mentoring programs.

Second, organizations can focus on fostering an age-inclusive environment. This would mean encouraging management practices that support knowledge exchange across all ages. This also includes fostering a culture where asking questions and acknowledging knowledge gaps are encouraged, regardless of age or experience.

Lastly, organizations should acknowledge the emotional aspects of aging at work. While learning from younger colleagues can be enriching, it can also evoke embarrassment. It is therefore crucial for organizations to take proactive measures to address this challenge. This could involve creating a supportive and understanding environment where open communication and feedback are encouraged.

By embracing these recommendations, organizations can unlock the full potential of intergenerational learning. This will empower older workers to thrive in the evolving workplace, and ultimately lead to a more successful and diverse workforce.


Pfrombeck, J., Burmeister, A., & Grote, G. (2024). Older workers’ knowledge seeking from younger coworkers: Disentangling countervailing pathways to successful aging at work. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 45(1), 1–20.

Image credit: istockphoto/Lyudinka