As of 2018, we are in a four-generation workplace (five if there are any straggling Traditionalists) Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z, fresh out of high school. We have never seen a workforce this diverse in age, and that presents a challenge for trainers.
How do you craft training that speaks to the different mindsets and learning preferences of such a diverse workforce? Because the answer isn’t a one-size-fits-all. What works for Millennials might have a learning curve for Baby Boomers. It’s easier to find training solutions that will speak to all the generations in your workforce if you utilize a few key multi-generational training techniques.
Focus on Commonalities
No matter what the media would have you think, all generations have commonalities. If those commonalities are ignored, it’s too easy to stratify your workforce, which can create conflict and encourage misunderstandings. Generational differences are just one facet of a person, after all, and no one likes being reduced to a stereotype.
All generations, in one way or another, appreciate being heard and respected. Give them ways to provide feedback on how their training is going, and to receive feedback on their training performance. We recently did this for a client by creating an app that simulated a real expense report processing change to train them on a new process. By providing them with their results in real time on a leaderboard, and including immediate and useful feedback on their performance, all employees had an opportunity to readily improve their performance. Something like this can give Millennials and Gen Z the instant feedback they crave and the Gen Xers the direct feedback they prefer.
Create Personalized Learning Paths
Diversifying your learning methods will help give you tools that speak to every generation in your workforce, and pairing that with personalized learning paths allows your employees to choose the learning tools that best suit them, rather than forcing them to adapt to a learning method that doesn’t come naturally.
If you want to find out what type of learner your employees really are, you can assess their personality types and learning habits before helping them develop their own learning paths. We worked with Wiley, a global publishing company specializing in digital content for corporate and business learning, on courses to do just that, focusing on soft skill development based on personality types. Creating course modules that help your employees strengthen their soft skills and understand their preferred learning styles will also help you understand their individual needs. Each course completion can generate a report that you can keep on file to assess your employees’ training and develop personalized learning paths based on their preferences and needs.
Use Creative Delivery Methods
Using gamified training elements can increase learner engagement (and don’t be fooled into thinking the term “gamification” is rather, well, juvenile. We’ve written about the merits of game-based training and how it can be used). These tools address more than generational learning gaps, but industry- and skill-specific learning gaps, as well. Comfort level with computer-based learning is not always stratified by age; you will have digitally savvy 70-year-olds and Luddite 30-year-olds. It all comes down to exposure, and by incorporating a sense of play into your delivery methods, you can decrease the discomfort, appeal to multiple generations, and find methods that work for your manual labor workers, who may enjoy hands-on learning, and your computer-based workers, who may be more tech-friendly.
Bite-sized learning modules using a tool like VR give all generational workers a chance to play around with the technology in a setting that requires limited instruction to get started. Learners in more physical industries are more responsive to VR because of the hands-on aspect, and anyone challenged by conventional click-based learning will find the gaze activation of VR easier to adapt to.
These gamified techniques also tap into the video games that Gen Xers and Millennials grew up with (they are, after all, close to 70% of your workforce today) and the app-based games that Gen Z have grown up playing. If you do use an app-based training program, make it multi-generational friendly by programming it for the browser, as well, which gives your employees the choice on what platform they want to use. Don’t be afraid to get creative. We’ve worked with comic book artists to create a visually impactful law course exercise for Wiley that utilized a storytelling format, and created an educational 360 degree video that gives users interesting facts about one of the most stunning pieces of architecture in the Midwest: The Baha’i Temple.
When creating training materials for a multi-generational workforce, remember that the first step is to think in terms of unifying, team-building strategies that not only help your employees learn, but learn in a methodology that works for them…and maybe even find some common ground with each other.