Chronological Age and Training Outcomes: Examining Psychological Processes and Cognitive Ability




McCausland, Tracy C.

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Employee training and development programs are typically regarded as universally beneficial; however, research suggests that this assumption does not hold for older trainees and little is known about why and under what conditions older trainees are likely to underperform relative to their younger colleagues. This study examined the mediating effects of motivation to learn and cognitive ability on the relationship between chronological age and training outcomes. The results of an empirical study involving 251 employees from the airline industry participating in mandatory software training indicated that motivation to learn, but not cognitive ability, transmitted the effect of chronological age on certain training outcomes such that older trainees reported lower levels of motivation to learn, which in turn was related to poorer outcomes. Furthermore, this indirect effect was more pronounced among trainees with relatively low levels of task self-efficacy immediately prior to training and trainees with limited views of remaining occupational time; high task self-efficacy and perceptions of open-ended remaining occupational time weakened the negative effects of older employee age in a training context. The implications of these findings for understanding and improving age-related workplace dynamics are discussed.



Psychology, Social sciences education, Age, Cognitive ability, Employee training, Motivation to learn, Trainee attributes