Engaging a Cross-Generational Workforce Through Continued Learning
Did you know that last year, millennials surpassed baby boomers, becoming America’s largest living generation? As younger generations continue to join the workforce, a cross-generational workplace is becoming the norm for most companies.
Having a diverse workforce with employees of varying age range is exceedingly beneficial with employees bringing to the table both the wisdom of older generations and the fresh, innovative ideas of newer generations. However, when it comes to continued learning for a cross-generational workforce, one thing to keep in mind is that different generations have different learning preferences. By catering to your workforce through blended learning methods, you can make each generation feel comfortable and motivated to succeed.
Your Multi-Generational Workforce
Currently, there are three main generations that make up most companies. The top three generations in the workforce right now are the Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials. Each have their preferred methods of communication and learning which should be considered when outlining a company-wide learning initiative.
Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964): Baby Boomers tend to be goal oriented and, sometimes, a bit on the “traditional” side in terms of learning methods. Some of Boomers preferred methods of communication include face-to-face, phone calls, personal interaction, and structured networking (source).
Baby Boomers are sharper and more active than any “older” generation before them. When talking about technology, it’s important not to make Baby Boomers feel “old” or speak down to them. While Baby Boomers may be tech-latecomers, they’re becoming more and more savvy each day. For organizations that are made up of mostly Baby Boomers, you may not want to force an eLearning only initiative. However, with a little guidance, Baby Boomers are able to work with most tech-related learning initiatives as needed.
Gen Xers (Born 1965-1980): Gen Xers tend to be self-motivated natural learners who view learning as an independent, self-directed activity (source). Gen Xers learn best when they understand why the information they’re being asked to grasp is relevant to them.
Gen Xers led the movement toward flexibility and value a work-life balance. Giving Gen Xers the freedom to complete tasks in their own way is essential to the success of any continued learning initiative.
Millennials (1981-2000): Millennials are the first generation to use technology throughout their entire lives so it’s no surprise that they also expect to use it when learning new skills. Millennials are the most educated generation in history and they’re most interested in hands-on work with individual feedback and mentoring (source).
While anomalies always exist, conventional wisdom has shown some general communication patterns for each group. And with each generation typically having different learning preferences, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The type of continued learning activities that you encourage for employees should be dependent on the makeup of your workforce and what learning styles work best for them.
Catering to Multi-Generational Learning Preferences
Learning has changed over the years. What used to be primarily face-to-face and text-based is now often technology-based, digital, and interactive. Each generation has their preferred learning style which is influenced by their relationship with technology, so instead of choosing one style, most companies choose to include elements of several learning preferences to accommodate varying levels of tech savviness.
In-Person and Traditional Classroom
Some employees, especially within the Baby Boomer generation, may feel more comfortable learning in a face-to-face environment. For certain members of your workforce, an in-person experience is ideal in order to best understand the material and to be able to ask questions in real time.
While many Boomers are fine with using technology, also having a face-to-face element is usually ideal for this age range. Something as simple as having primarily eLearning but also an in-person Q&A element could suffice. This blended learning methodology allows for more efficiency in delivering learning initiatives, yet gives employees the level of comfort they desire.
As technology advances, the way that people learn evolves. In addition to, or in place of, traditional face-to-face learning alone, most modern learning management initiatives include an element of eLearning where part or all of the curriculum is accessed digitally. Some examples of the most used eLearning methods are pre-recorded video, live video, online discussion boards, web-based tutorials (instructor led or self-led), gamification, mentoring, blended learning, and more.
Pre-recorded video: Using pre-recorded video allows you to get the most out of your content. If the curriculum you’re teaching doesn’t change often, pre-recorded, instructor-led video can be used for years to come.
Live Video: Want to add an element of interaction for your eLearning initiative? Live instructor-led video helps students learn from each other and ask questions in real time. Learn more about using video to enhance your LMS on our blog.
Online Discussion: In addition to live video, another way to encourage peer interaction is through discussion boards. Especially if the majority of your curriculum is self taught, online discussion boards or threads allow staff to build upon each other’s insights to gain a deeper understanding of the material.
Gamification: Many online learning curriculums now offer gamification to incentivize learning. One example of gamification might be awarding points or badges for hitting learning milestones and goals. Gamification makes learning fun with a little friendly competition among co-workers.
Mentoring: While face-to-face interaction isn’t always achievable throughout a digital course, having a mentoring aspect can help employees gain that peer interaction that they crave.
Having an element of eLearning allows your workforce flexibility throughout the learning process–something that is essential when requesting that employees expand their skill set. Building their skill sets is beneficial to each individual employee, but keep in mind that most staff are juggling work duties, home duties, and now, the added load of expanding current skills or learning new ones. For even the best multi-tasker, taking on learning new skills in addition to their normal workload might seem overwhelming.
Especially with a multi-generational organization, not all staff are going to work through courses at the same speed. eLearning makes it easier for employees to work through continued learning at their own pace and digest the information in a way that is best for their learning style.
Ask Your Workforce
For most companies, providing a mix of elements of traditional learning along with eLearning is the best route for the best user experience and learning efficiency for all generations. To find out what kind of continued learning management plan to enact, start by asking your current employees. Something as simple as holding an interactive workshop and/or doing a survey to find out your workforce’s learning preferences can save your company time and money when creating a learning management plan.
Learning Management with a Cross-Generational Workforce in Mind
With generational learning preferences in mind and some light research (one-on-one interviews, workshops, surveys) to back up your decisions, it’s time to begin creating courses and curriculums that align with your company’s needs.
It’s also important to educate leadership on best practices and the thought process behind the types of learning that is implemented. When there is transparency and all levels of the organization are on the same page, the company will be more likely to create a successful continued learning initiative.
Learn more about how a continued learning management system can benefit your organization on our blog.