There is a growing generational culture gap appearing in today’s workforce, and it is becoming increasingly apparent in the world of education and training. 45 percent of today’s workforce is under the age of 40. And as these young “millennial workers” show up for corporate training programs, who do they find teaching the programs? Trainers from their parents’ generation?
Now, there are younger trainers out there. But still, the chances are quite high that the majority of corporate training decision makers and senior trainers are from the Baby Boomer generation. And they certainly influence the design and, to a great extent, the delivery style of a major portion of corporate training.
Do Generational Differences Matter?
Your first response to this situation may be something like, “So what?” Is it really such a big deal that there is this generation gap between trainers and trainees? In fact, isn’t that the way it has always been? Those doing the teaching are older, and supposedly wiser, than those receiving the training? The answer of course is “yes, but.” Yes, in general, there has often been an age difference between those teaching and those being taught, especially when we are young. But, as adults, we often find ourselves in learning situations where the age differences lessenss doesn’t make any sense?
As the number of younger learners increases in the workplace classroom, designing and delivering training will have to be changed, updated, and, occasionally, overhauled entirely in order to be effective with the younger generations.
And I’m not talking about changing generational reference points and outdated examples, although these are important. I’m talking about addressing generational differences in learning styles and overall approaches to learning—perhaps even generational differences in cognitive development. Although I am Millennial generation (born 1982) our learning came through lectures and texts with an occasional opportunity to do something. We looked to gurus and subject-matter experts to tell us the answers—or at least to provide insights.
Teaching methods have changed dramatically over the past years also. If the last time you were in a public school classroom was well before 1980, or even 1990, check things out. The look, style, and approaches to learning have changed. Many young people from the emerging generations grew up with learning approaches that used teamwork and collaboration. They took part in engaged learning projects. They learned to use critical thinking skills. They thrived in classrooms with learning pods and subject corners and individualized options… the Millennial Generation, born between 1981 and 2000, grew up learning to learn …Their learning encounters were reinforced with sound and color and humor. .
So what’s next?
Some trainers and designers of training settled into a very organized, linear approach to training and training design—structured, step-by-step, lecture-dominated, text-oriented, criterion-referenced, and often more focused on the trainer than on the learner. What if all your group is under 30 years ? Are you going to use the same approach? Me personally, I am changing the styles always. And really the core of my design is with who i am going to work 🙂
Here are few tips and taps
Take the “set up” of a training program, for example. If you’ve been doing training as I have for the past ten years, the first 30 minutes of your program may be carefully devoted to establishing a good training climate—welcoming participants, making introductory remarks, presenting an overview of the class and its purpose and goals, covering housekeeping issues, and, of course, introducing yourself and then having the participants meet one another (preferably in a short, clever activity). All of this is done at an energetic, but evenly paced tempo—accompanied by the appropriate distribution of three-ring binders and a sprinkling of overhead transparencies or colorful slides.
This approach to setting a good learning climate was established years ago, probably to deal with reluctant participants, many of whom were not happy about attending training. The idea behind the approach may have been to allay participant fears, establish the credentials of the presenter, reassure participants of the value of the course content, and put class members at ease with one another. These are important to do, and the way in which we do them may be very reassuring to older participants; but to many younger participants, it is frustratingly slow and seems quite unnecessary.
I do not want to suggest that any one way of conducting a program is better than any other, nor am I suggesting that participants will only respond to one type and not another. I am suggesting, however, that trainers of a certain age may want to consider using different types of design and delivery techniques now and then, particularly in programs that contain a large number of younger learners.
Five Key Millennial Generation Needs
After reading and researching what has been written about the different generations, after conducting a number of focus groups and brainstorming sessions with younger learners, and after numerous fact-finding junkets into Millennial culture, I would like to propose five key Millennial needs that can be easily addressed in the design and delivery of almost any training program to make it more appealing to younger learners. Think of these five needs, or five factors, as antidotes to five unfortunate habits of well-meaning Boomer trainers:
Boomer Habits Millennial Needs
Use telling, text-oriented methods Involve to solve
Take a linear approach Offer options
Use a leisurely, even pace Pick up the pace
Apply a trainer-focused style Link to the learner
Employ a prudent amount of fun Turn up the fun factor
So How TO Do It?
Start your training with a bang. Decrease the amount of telling and increase the amount of doing. Make the learning environment pleasant and attractive. Use rewards and incentives. Use fast, action-based games and competitive activities. But most importantly, have lots of interaction and involvement.
Design and use games that address the five factors presented in this article. Make your games fast-paced. Offer options and choices throughout games and activities. Involve your players in finding solutions and solving problems. Try to use great graphics and include sound and movement. Whenever possible, make use of technology. Include lots of rewards and punishments. And don’t be afraid to make use of fantasy and imagination.
Where to Begin?
Take a quick look at the various classes you are teaching. Which ones have the largest enrollments of younger learners? Choose one or two and begin making a few alterations. Or choose a program that needs a real shot in the arm and design a new “<Millennial-friendly” game or activity to use at the very beginning of the program.
Find a couple of Millennial colleagues and discuss some of the ideas and suggestions in this article. See what they think. Audit each other’s programs and exchange feedback and ideas. Make some changes. Try out some new approaches. See what happens.
As one younger learner I know suggested, “Don’t make learning so serious. Make it fun. Make it comfortable. Have lots of food and drinks. And if I have to sit there for a long time, how about a sofa?”
Have a great Monday.