Among the many challenges businesses face today is engaging an increasingly diverse and multi-generational workforce. It’s common to have people from two or even three generations working side by side. Employees born so many decades apart often have very different skills, backgrounds, and expectations. This is something that affects every aspect of work life. Training people from different generations is often an especially tricky area. You don’t want to design separate training programs for people based on age but it’s often difficult to come up with methods that work for everyone. Let’s look at some tips to help you design a training program that engages people of all ages.

Understanding the Needs of Different Generations

The first step is to understand why employees of different ages often need distinct approaches when it comes to training. Consider a Baby Boomer or even someone born in the World War II era, alternately called the Greatest Generation or the Silent Generation. These people grew up long before the internet (at least before the internet was widely used), not to mention smartphones, instant messaging, and social media. At the other end of the spectrum, millennials and Generation Z (the generation just starting to enter the workforce now). These young people grew up taking the digital world for granted. For all intents and purposes, a 60-year old and a 25-year old grew up in completely different cultures.

Older millennials and Generation Xers, meanwhile, are somewhere in the middle. There’s actually a wide spectrum of knowledge and familiarity with the latest technology. It’s best not to make assumptions about people based solely on their age. But you need to be aware that your workforce probably includes people with widely differing backgrounds. This awareness is especially crucial when it comes to training. For the quality and depth of training are one of the main factors associated with employee engagement.

Why Training and Engagement Are Vital to Success

Employee engagement is one of the keys to a successful enterprise. Lack of engagement harms your company in a number of ways. For one thing, disengaged employees are far more likely to seek employment elsewhere. According to Gallup, 73% of disengaged employees are actively looking other jobs and opportunities. While many factors influence engagement, training, and onboarding play a major role. Without effective training, it’s difficult for new hires to fully fit, feel at home and reach their full potential. The Korn Ferry Futurestep Survey reveals that 98% of executives believe that onboarding programs are crucial for employee retention.

Training, of course, is a major aspect of onboarding, making it easier for new employees to meet the challenges of their jobs. Employees who don’t receive proper training are more likely to feel disengaged and seek other opportunities. According to one study, 40% of employees who receive inadequate training leave their jobs within the first year. There’s an undeniable link between effective employee training, engagement, and business success. The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) found that companies that offer comprehensive training have a 24% higher profit margin than those that invest less in training. Of course, when considering how to create effective and engaging training today, it’s necessary to consider the varying needs of your multigenerational workforce.

Multigenerational Training Guidelines

Once you’re aware of generational workforce differences, you can design training that addresses everyone’s needs. The best approach is to incorporate several elements to your training to ensure that you don’t leave anyone out. Here are some guidelines to help you do this.

  • Avoid stereotyping people. Try to maintain a balance between recognizing that members of each generation have certain tendencies and realizing that people are individuals. For example, some Baby Boomers are tech-savvy while not all millennials are addicted to their smartphones.
  • Balance guidance and self-direction in your training programs. Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation grew up learning mostly from personal interactions rather than media. Gen-Xers and Millennials, to varying degrees, grew up playing computer games, browsing the internet, and learning many tasks on their own. Today’s e-learning platforms provide many options for self-directed learning. While this is valuable, don’t forget that some of your employees prefer live interaction and personal contact.
  • Seek learning tools that bridge the generations. Some tools are appropriate for multiple generations and learning styles. Video training is especially effective in this manner. For one thing, even older employees probably watched instructional movies in school. Videos also allow for more traditional lecture-style learning that’s not very different from a live session.
  • Provide additional training to bring everyone up to speed. Very often, the gap separating people on tech issues is not as wide as it first appears. Yet, if your training program simply assumes that everyone has the same background, it’s easy to inadvertently leave some people behind. You can prevent this by providing extra training and peer-to-peer sessions for older employees (and anyone else who needs it). This type of training might include instruction in using certain software, keyboarding skills, and anything else that’s an essential prerequisite to your overall training.
  • Encourage intergenerational communication. Each generation has distinctive experiences and skill sets (once again, keeping in mind differences within generations and among individuals). Apart from formal training, encourage people of different generations to work together and share their strengths. You can do this by partnering people together in pairs or groups for learning and work projects. When people work together, they often informally pick up quite a bit from one another. A millennial, for example, might teach a Baby Boomer how to use the latest apps while older employees can share some of the valuable experience they’ve picked up over the years.

If you learn to leverage and appreciate it, people from different generations working together is actually a source of strength for your business. Diversity lets you incorporate the strengths and experiences acquired by people from different generations. It’s beyond dispute that quality training improves engagement and contributes to success. By taking steps to address everyone’s needs, you ensure that all of your employees get the most out of your training.

Check out this article for more ideas on how to train employees of different generations.


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