Training a Multigenerational Workforce

By January 26, 2018 No Comments
Training a Multi-generational Workforce

Today’s workforce is made up of diverse groups of multigenerational learners. This diverse mix of employees could span across four to even five generations in an organization. It is important to understand what motivates the different generations of learners especially when training is involved. With so many different expectations, values, and learning styles, how do you effectively provide training that is relevant to each generational group?

If you look at this multigenerational workforce from a training and learning perspective, companies can either fall into a “Melting Pot” approach where all different learners are grouped together and trained the same way. Another option is to consider a multigenerational learning approach where training is tailored and delivered based on the communication styles and motivations of each generational workforce grouping.

From the Traditionalists who prefer a more formal and protocol style of communication to Millennials who have a casual and immediate communication style, understanding the learners’ different needs, attitude, and preferences is key to motivating each learner. Also, it is important to keep in mind that we all have different learning styles and ways of retaining information (but this is another topic for another time). If you really think about it, companies just need to go back to the basic fundamental and notion of “knowing your audience” in every situation, especially your employees workforce style preferences.

Below is one way of examining the different learning and communication styles across multigenerational learners.

Training a Multi-generational Workforce

We also have to consider how Generation Z is on the rise and are joining the workforce. According to Forbes, this generation is made up of 25% of the U.S. population. Gen Z is a larger group than Baby Boomers or Millennials.

Now back to our question of how to provide effective training?

So when a critical training rollout or learning program is implemented, how does an organization begin to assess the diverse mix of employees and learning needs? After all, the goal of any training program is to have employees motivated to learn, retain, and apply the real-world application of the training.

It wasn’t until I really listened to a few clients share their multigenerational challenges that made me stop (assess my own preferences) and ponder this ongoing complexity within a company. Let’s take a quick look at two client stories.

In this first example, our client needed to change their leadership culture. The multigenerational gap that existed among employees was contributing to a disjointed and chaotic culture in the organization. Deeply rooted tenured leaders did not relate to or empower millennial employees. This disconnect ultimately caused an atmosphere of distrust and employee attrition.

To design a leadership development program, it was critical to first identify the pain points of the managers and employees in the organization. Focus groups, 1:1 session, interviews, and surveys were conducted to understand the challenges and training needs. The needs assessment provided insights on employee behavioral patterns and identified training gaps.

The following key actions highlight how the training was deployed:

  • An employee needs assessment and multigenerational evaluation tools. Individual interviews and focus groups were conducted to determine training needs and development strengths in the organization. Feedback was collected with anonymous employee satisfaction surveys.
  • Leadership development tools. Management training included discussion forums, a monthly leadership development book club, and role-playing activities.
  • Coaching models/techniques. A series of professional communication classes and supporting coaching sessions were provided to each manager. The importance of motivating a multigenerational workforce, setting clear expectations, communications, and outcomes were the core business skills topics.
  • Strengths assessment and development tools. The last step of the training focused on identifying professional strengths of the entire staff.

Identifying and getting the results from the multigenerational evaluation was key to the creation of a successful leadership development program that transformed a culture.

In my second example, another client was rolling out a critical software release to support their mobile workforce of caseworkers. The organization’s employees spanned across four workforce generations. The employees varied in tenure, ranging from one month to 37 years. Overall, less than 50% of employees worked at the company for less than five years.

Even before they got into the details of the training program, they had the foresight to identify their audience of learners and understand their unique learner preferences. They asked the learners how they wanted to be trained and they concluded a blended learning approach would work best. The company employed a differentiated training approach where the content, duration, and style of training varied based on individual roles and responsibilities. The training program offered a blended approach of instructor-led and eLearning training to meet the different learning styles of the multigenerational workforce.

Since multigenerational profiles vary in an organization, it is important to identify workforce styles and learning preferences before delivering training. Looking to train your variety of employees? Then get in touch with us!