Training Industry

Workforce Development

  • Training Isn’t a Millennial Thing, It’s a Multi-Gen Thing

These days, it seems like everywhere you look there’s a new article about how to meet the needs of millennials. No question, this generation is important, but what about the rest of the workforce?

Gen Xers equal millennials as the largest population in the labor force (at roughly 34 percent each) and Baby Boomers still comprise 29 percent of the workforce. That means 63 percent of your workforce is not a Millennial! Besides this, at least twenty percent of Gen Xers plan to work beyond age 70, and baby boomers plan to stay in the workforce until at least age 67. So, it just makes sense to consider these factors when thinking about any work-related matter, including training.

While many organizations have turned their attention to training efforts that appeal to millennials, the reality is that whether workers are 25 or 55, they’re tired of the same old approaches: Single-session brain dumps overwhelm even the most motivated learners. Lengthy sessions with no follow-on reinforcement pretty much guarantee that people will forget most of what they learned. And employees don’t have the patience, let alone the time, to sit through the irrelevant content that comprises “one-size-fits-all” courses. In fact, modern workers have almost no time to spend on learning: About 1 percent of their typical workweek. That equates to a paltry 4.8 minutes per day!

So how do you deliver training that not only helps millennial employees progress, but also satisfies older learners’ needs for continued learning and development? Here are four tips:

1. Leverage familiar, modern learning technology

Yes, millennials are tech savvy, but so are older generations. Like millennials, most have embraced technology and use it in their personal lives. Who doesn’t carry a mobile device these days? Organizations can use this to their advantage by implementing new mobile learning technology that appeals to all generations and mirrors the functions of familiar apps people use every day, such as Google-like searches, Twitter-sized content nuggets, LinkedIn-like expert sharing, and Candy Crush-type gaming elements. Modern learning technology that mimics these characteristics not only allows both younger and older workers to relate to it, but facilitates increased opportunities for engagement because the technology is similar to everything else they use in their daily lives.

2. Ditch long training sessions in favor of microlearning

In today’s time-crunched work environments, it makes more sense to use daily microlearning to deliver training in short bite-sized bursts instead of trying to wrangle employees together for an 8-hour training session. Daily microlearning allows workers of all ages to grow their knowledge and expertise continually, without taking them away from their work for hours at a time. And when you combine microlearning with the science of learning (including repeated retrieval, spaced repetition, confidence-based assessment and gamification), you ensure that you don’t overwhelm employees with content all at once and can sustain their learning over time: Employees remember information they’ve learned, so they can put it to good use on the job.

3. Swap out “one-size-fits-all” training for personalized learning

It doesn’t make sense to give the same training to every employee. This is particularly important when you’re addressing the needs of multiple generations. Although all employees grapple with time constraints and distractions, different generations can have unique needs when it comes to learning. Learning technologies that personalize learning according to job requirements, learning preferences, and pre-existing knowledge, and also adapt learning content as employees progress, ensure that everyone receives learning that is new, relevant to their jobs, and suited to their current competency levels. And when you combine this with on-demand learning over a variety of platforms—such as web, smartphone and tablet—you allow employees to learn whenever and wherever it makes most sense for them.

4. Facilitate collaboration

It’s not enough to try to capture knowledge from employees before they leave the organization. Today’s organizations need to leverage the knowledge, skills and experience of older workers to help younger workers develop into tomorrow’s leaders. New learning technologies give you the ability to get experienced employees involved in contributing to a corporate knowledge repository. And when you also leverage social and collaborative learning opportunities—such as communities of practice, open discussions, and crowd-sourcing—you are able to tap into the collective wisdom of the corporate community so employees of all ages can work together and learn from each other. This not only allows the organization to take advantage of its intellectual capital, but can also drive increased employee engagement.  

Quit thinking there’s a generational divide

Instead of focusing on the differences between generations, organizations need to create a unified learning environment that acknowledges all employees need information delivered to them when they need it, and in a way that makes sense to them. By using modern learning technology, you can take advantage of the contribution older workers can make, while continuing to satisfy the needs of younger, incoming generations. Older workers aren’t technophobic. They do get technology. They want to build their knowledge and skills ongoing. And they are eager to contribute their expertise to foster organizational success.

Carol Leaman is the president and CEO of Axonify.

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