Keep Peace and Keep Learning in a Multi-Generational Workforce
AN EBOOK BROUGHT TO YOU BYDesigning and delivering effective training can be a challenge evenwhen we have a clearly defined and narrow audience for our content orprogram. But what happens when we have to train teams, groups ordepartments with a wide mix of generations among the targetedemployees?How do HR professionals, their leadership and other business leaderskeep the peace and keep learning in a multigenerational workforce?CHRIS OSBORN. VP Marketing, BizLibrary [Boomer]JESSICA BATZ, Marketing Specialist, BizLibrary [Gen Y]
We’ve never had a workplace with so much generational diversity before. For most of the last century, people moved through their career in a linear fashion, with important milestones largely marked by time or seniority. Retirement age used to be 65, and that was it. You “paid your dues” before promotions. But today’s workforce looks and feels different. Image Source: Nydailynews.comThere are many explanations for the current demographics ranging from improved health and longevity to thefinancial market meltdown of 2008 which forced many people (a large number of Baby Boomers) to postponeretirement for financial reasons. We can’t control why so many generations are working side-by-side. So – we have nochoice but to find ways for people with very different life experiences based upon age to work well together. Asemployee development, training or HR professionals, we likewise don’t have a choice. So how do HR professionals,their leadership and other business leaders keep the peace in the multigenerational workforce? We have to design,build and deliver employee training that meets the needs of a very diverse workforce.
You can find a variety of ways to look at generational demographics. The dates below are generally accepted, but you will certainly find experts who will vary the generational breaks by a year or two on each generation. So – broadly speaking, here are the various generations in today’s workforce: U.S. Total Labor Force Participation by Generation, 2010 5.0% Traditionalists (Born 1928-1945) 24.7% Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1965) 39.0% Generation X (born 1965-1980) 32.2% Millenials/Gen Y (Born 1980 - 2000)Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Household Data, Not Seasonally Adjusted: Table A-13: Employment Status of the Civilian Noninstitutional Population by Age, Sex, and Race" (2012).
The findings of a study conducted in 2011 confirm that generational differencesexist and impact the workplace. “This is the most comprehensive quantitative studyperformed on generations in the workforce,” says Warren Wright, Vice President ofLifeCourse Associates. Wright adds, “We now know what engages differentgenerations.” The LifeCourse Associates study included full-time employedmembers of the following generations: Millennials (age 30 and under), Generation X(ages 31-51), and Boomers (ages 52-69). of Millenials agreed Generations matter. Nearly three-quarters of respondents that they like to agreed, not only that there are important generational socialize informally and differences, but also that they “sometimes” or make new friends “often” pose challenges in the workplace. while at work, about ten points higher than of the world’s workforce will be made up of Gen Y, any other generation. according to a BPW Foundation April 2011 Study. Source: New Study: Generational Differences in the Workforce Matter, HR.BLR.com
Stereotyping generations can be very limiting, however if we take the time to understand our employees and generational influences we can benefit from: • More effective communication In addition, just because you were born in one generation, • Increased engagement you may or may not display the behaviors and tendencies of the generation. For example, The Pew Internet and • Improved employee retention American Life project has a simple quiz that asks “How • Motivated employees Millennial Are You?”. We did a comparison of employees • Increased productivity and teamwork in our company and there were Millennials that scored in the low 80’s and Boomers that scored in the 70’s. This fun assessment is interesting, because the various generations are compared to Millennials based upon comfort and use of technology, plus a few questions about lifestyle.Jessica Batz, Marketing Specialist – Gen Y Chris Osborn, VP of Marketing – Generation Jones
As we start thinking carefully about the various generations, it’s important to understand that the differences between themare not simply a matter of age.Each generation has been shaped by events, and it’s theevents during the formative years for people that make themost lasting and important impressions.These “formative” or “sign post” events, help inform attitudes about everything from politics, home, entertainment,to work or careers. It’s also important to bear in mind that making sweeping generalizations about large groups ofpeople is not an accurate predictor of personality, traits, character, skills, motivations, etc. The generationaldifferences we’re going to explore that impact our employee training efforts tell some of each person’s story, but inthe end, everyone is unique and may or may not fit neatly into the broad categories or characterizations usuallyassociated with their generation.
Traditionalists: Born before 1946• The Great Depression • Pearl Harbor & World War II• The Cold War, Atom Bomb & Sputnik • The GI Bill & Social Security• Jackie Robinson • Frank Sinatra Baby Boomers: Born 1946 - 1965 • Booming Birthrate & Suburbia • Vietnam • OPEC Oil Embargo • Apollo 8 & Moon Landing • Martin Luther King, Jr. • The Beatles CHRIS OSBORN, VP OF MARKETING – BOOMER I am usually included as a member of the BOOMER Generation. But some demographers now say there is a separate generation in that broad category called Generation Jones (born between 1955 and 1964). So - am I BOOMER or something else? Based upon my experiences, I believe there is a difference between me and my older friends that are clearly BABY BOOMERS, and the differences can be linked directly to events during our formative years. But - the broad traits associated with Boomers usually apply to me and others my age. Major signposts or events for Boomers are a mixed bag. Older (Boomers) got The Beatles. People closer to my age got the Bee Gees. Older Boomers got Woodstock. We got disco. They got Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, we got Watergate. Younger Boomers like me came of age in the early 1970’s. By the mid-1970s, the great hope and promise of the 1960’s vanished. Race and anti-war riots helped shred the political and social fabric of the nation, and we are still seeing the great divides among us that really took center stage in the very late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Our government failed. By the early to mid-1970’s we were awash in political scandal, exiting from a war we’d lost, and the nation faced an energy crisis that blunted economic opportunities for millions. These events fueled skepticism about institutions, and this sketicism is a true hallmark of BOOMERS.
Generation X: Born 1965 - 1980• Divorce • AIDS• The Personal Computer • Challenger• Title IX • Grunge and Rap, Madonna Millenials/ Generation Y: Born 1980 - 2000• Diversity • Social Networking• Terrorism & 9/11 • High Speed Internet• Pop Culture • Technology JESSICA BATZ, MARKETING SPECIALIST – GEN Y As a member of Gen Y I grew up with computers in my school and at home. The internet grew exponentially – I distinctly remember tracking the Iditarod, Alaskan dog sled race on “THE INTERNET” in grade school. I, like many of my peers, was involved in more than 4 sports teams and at least 3 extracurricular activities outside of sports. It’s weird to think about meeting up with people without having a cell phone – you mean you had to set an exact time and meeting place? I grew up wanting world peace, to save the whales, and to reduce-reuse and recycle – although I’m not sure I really even understood the full meaning. Our view of the United States and the World quickly and forever changed after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. College and higher education are a requirement. Technology is essential to our effectiveness and success. We’re more connected, can find and sort more information more quickly, relentlessly curious (why and awesome may be the most frequently used words in our vocabulary) and require a work environment that’s both flexible , meaningful and committed to continuous growth and development.
These important events (and there are several more for each generation) help frame a world view people bring to their jobseveryday. This broad-based world view impacts work styles, our attitudes towards change and towards our careers. Thischart from n-gen People Performance, Inc. provides a summary for each of these areas by generation.Traditionalists Boomers Gen Xers Gen YsLinear work style Structured Work Style Informal Work Style Fluid Work StyleChange = something’s Change = caution Change = potential Change = improvementwrong opportunityBuild a legacy Build a stellar career Build a portable career Build parallel careersAgain, we want to avoid stereotyping, but the differences between generations on these three elements of our work lives matter. Notsurprisingly, Traditionalists came of age when huge institutions rose to the occasion and actually delivered great results. They have adifferent level of trust that carries over to their employers, and they generally look at work as a lifelong commitment to an employer.Boomers came along and blew everything up in the 1960’s, but as they’ve matured in the workplace and in their careers, their attitudesare looking more and more like Traditionalists – with some modifications. Boomers, as a group, are highly competitive and driven. Theterm “workaholic” likely conjures an image of a Baby Boomer working away on that career. Gen Xers, the latchkey generation, bringus a whole new set of challenges. As a group, they shun formality, are generally open to change and are motivated to look out forthemselves. The youngest generation of workers, Gen Y, frequently get a bad rap, but as a group these young people are turning outto be great employees. But they bring some attitudes and expectations to work fostered by a different type of home and socialenvironment. For many of these workers, change is a very good thing and that applies to their jobs, too! Table Source: n-gen People Performance Inc. www.ngenperformance.com
Get to know themGenerational characteristics can help you understand your employees better, but it’s still important to get to knowthem as individuals. Particularly with us Millennials – if you listen to what we say, we’ll tell you what really motivatesus. Allow us to express our opinions, have a voice and make clear contributions about how things get done.Provide constructive feedbackEveryone likes to feel valued. Millennials need continuous, timely and constructive feedback. AND when givingfeedback try and accentuate the positive, -- not that we want to be babied -- but we’re more likely to take criticismpersonally. We grew up with parents, teachers and coaches offering encouragement every step of the way.. Rewardsand recognition are always a good thing!Communicate! and communicate clearlyCommunication is key to any relationship whether it’s personal or professional. Millennials are used tocommunicating through texts, IM’s, and status posts. Communication has to be short and concise, if we have to reada long email or infer the meaning of a message, we’ll skip over it. Being straightforward gains trust, credibility andrespect. In addition, we also want to know that what we do matters. We want to understand how our job role and ourday-to-day work fits into the big picture of the company and with our own personal goals.
Honor their ExperienceThere are so many clichés out there about Baby Boomers, that its easy to make broad assumptions about them.Dont. This age group is under a lot of pressure in the workforce. Retirement looks less and less possible for many,and that means working longer. But, Boomers dont necessarily have to be in charge. Younger, more energeticemployees are going to step forward, and thats okay. Just make sure you acknowledge the contributions weve madeand honor our history and knowledge.Provide constructive feedback - but not too muchNo news in good news for a lot of Boomers. I know its irrational, but over the course of working life, requests bythe boss to come see them raise anxiety. Not as much as police lights in the rear view mirror - but almost. I knowwhen Im doing well. I know when Im not. I just need an occasional "good job" to stay motivated.Communicate but Dont MandateCommunication can kill any relationship whether it’s personal or professional. Okay - maybe over communication canbe bad. I just dont understand why younger employees want to know everything. I only want to know what I need toknow to perform my job really well - no more - no less. Like Ive said before, many Boomers are a little "resistant" toauthority, so if you want me to do something, like take a training class, explain clearly what I will learn and how it willhelp me perform better. Thats a lot better than telling me I "have to" do something.
Learning styles Problem-solvingTraining expectations Leadership Technology Feedback Decision-making Transfer and application CHRIS OSBORN, VP OF MARKETING – BOOMER As a Boomer, many things happened in my formative years that now shape my attitudes, world view and approach to problem solving and learning. I tend to buck convention and authority. So “mandated” training has never appealed to me. If I have to do some professional development, let me decide what I need, leave me alone to go do it, and I’ll let you know when I am finished. This (some might call it) “hostility” to authority also impacts my reaction to classroom training. First, I don’t like being inconvenienced and second, I usually look for holes in everything the instructor says. But, when a classroom is led by a skilled facilitator – not a lecturer – I will participate and generally find some value in the conversation. Online training appeals to me. Much like self study, I can dictate the when and where I learn. But the online content needs to be interesting. I like a lot of video or scenarios in my online training. It is much easier to see a connection between what I am watching and what I need to do on my job. JESSICA BATZ, MARKETING SPECIALIST – GEN Y As a millennial I crave constant feedback and instant access. I grew up getting encouragement from parents, teachers and coaches all along the way. Traditional Classroom/Lecture style training doesn’t work, in fact I’ll probably learn more from a backchannel Twitter chat than from a Lecturer – not to discount good speakers or lecturers, but I don’t process the information. If I’m going to do formal training then I’d much rather take an e-learning course or watch a video to get the base knowledge – that way I can skip over stuff I already know - and then spend classroom time discussing, asking questions and sharing real experiences. Honestly though, I learn the most when I need that skill or bit of knowledge. I like that I can pose a question on Community (BizLibrary Social Learning Platform) and I’ll get six different answers within two minutes. I’m getting information on-demand. I’m reassured that others are interested in that same question and I feel good that I’m able to hopefully help others learn as well.
Traditionalists Boomers Gen Xers Gen YsTraining The hard way Too much and I’m outta Required to keep me Continuous and here expectedLearning Style Classroom Facilitated Independent Collaborative and networkedCommunication style Top down Guarded Hub and spoke CollaborativeProblem-solving Hierarchical Horizontal Independent CollaborativeDecision-making Seeks approval Team informed Team included Team decidedLeadership style Command & control Get out of the way Coach PartnerFeedback No news is good news Once per year Weekly/daily On demandTechnology use Uncomfortable Unsure Unable to work without it Unfathomable if not providedJob changing Sets me back Sets me back Necessary Part of my daily routine Source: Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman. When Generations Collide: Who They Are. Why They Clash. How To Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work (HarperBusiness, 2002)
When it comes to training a demographically diverse workforce, how can we design and then deliver programs that meet the learning and development needs of employees? Before we delve into tips for each generation, here are a two strategic suggestions that will help you get your program more closely aligned with the needs of your employees.1. Design training from the bottom up. Have astrategic vision for training. We can find a lot of advice that tells uswe need to “align” our training goals to organizational goals, andthis advice is very good advice we should all take to heart. But thetrick to making it work best is to design training from the bottom Increase employee retention by 10%.up. See the example to the right.By taking this high level organizational goal down to the level of anindividual HR manager, we can see where her skills can be improved, To retain more employees andand design an individual development plan focused on her specificneeds. The “ground up” design of her training program, helps ensure increase employee engagement.that she is working to improve her skills in an area that directly supportsthe high level organizational goal. This creates alignment.2. Use the differences between generations to Collaboration skills to build a higheryour advantage in a variety of delivery methods level of employee engagement.and tools. We will explain this in a little more detail in the pagesthat follow, but a quick example is classroom training.Traditionalists tend to like classroom events. Boomers may not. Collaboration skills improvement for our managerBoth generations will respond very well if you can find ways to give means she needs to learn to listen better,them chances to share their valuable experiences and knowledge delegate more effectively and use thewith younger workers. This sharing helps feed the Gen X and Gen organizations collaboration and social learningY preferences for collaborative and social learning experiences. application more frequently.
• Use a lot of classroom training. As a rule, this generation responds well to subject- mater experts, presentations and lectures. • Show your veteran employee they are respected and valued members of your workforce. They might not respond well to coaching or help without being asked first if they need or want some help. • Be mindful of the physical demands of classroom training on these employees. So plan for frequent breaks and chances to move around a little. • Provide access to books, resources and opportunities for self-study. • Be sure to place value on time.Traditionalists: Born before 1946
• Make sure your materials and handouts can be read with bifocals. • Assume these employees are technologically capable. Some may take a little longer to learn new technologies, and some may simply resist, but a surprising number of this generation are open to learning new technologies. • This group will usually prefer chances to practice new skills in private and on their own. • Seminars and in-person events allow Traditionalists to use their interpersonal skills.Traditionalists: Born before 1946
• This is the generation that coined the phrase, “Never trust anyone over 30.” Guess who’s over 30 now? This core mistrust of authority carries over, so try not to include managers in the same sessions with their employees. The Boomers might feel they are being watched, monitored and even evaluated by their bosses. • Also – try to play down any sense that training is required by those in authority – even when it might be. • Narratives like stories and anecdotes can help set a friendly, open atmosphere for classroom sessions. • Make Boomers feel valued. Provide feed- back, thanks for efforts, learn their names, give them chances to talk, ask for input, and refer to their experience.Baby Boomers: Born 1946 - 1965
• Boomers tend to be casual in workplace relationships, so make sure your training team treats them as equals, even if your training team is younger. Boomers don’t like Boomers to feel older – even though they are. don’t like to • Narratives like stories and anecdotes can help feel older set a friendly, open atmosphere for classroom even though sessions. they are. • Make sure you provide a training environment that is safe for open discussion. • Create fair rules for all activities—according to generational learning expert, Julie Coates, boomers grew up in a very competitive environment, where some individuals lost and some won. It was OK to lose, as long as the rules were fair.Baby Boomers: Born 1946 - 1965
• Build in self-directed learning opportunities. • Assign individual research or projects. • Provide online training and testing, and put it where learners can access it when they need it • Get to the point, efficiently. Banish anything in the curriculum that is being done just because it has always been done. Dont waste time. • Set clear expectations for behavior and measurement criteria up front • Let the learners figure it out, then teach each other—give them the freedom, autonomy, and independence to come up with answers and alternatives.Generation X: Born 1965 - 1980
• Speed it up, then speed it up again. • Explain your credentials, but dont expect automatic respect based on your age or the fact that you are the trainer. • Avoid cliché and hyperbole, and make it relevant to their generation. • Use technology wherever it makes sense. • Communicate the benefits of the training and clearly establish the expectations from the beginning. Make sure what you are doing is relevant to their career goals. • Lighten up! Gen X loves humor, especially irreverent humor. • Make it visually attractive. Avoid large blocks of text. Incorporate illustrations, cartoons, attractive graphic design, bullet points, and headers.Generation X: Born 1965 - 1980
• Gen Y participants need clear expectations up front, including behavioral expectations for the classroom or training program as a whole. • Be organized and provide a clear structure for the learning at the outset, including outlines, a syllabus, learning objectives, study guides, expectations, and how they will be evaluated. • Tell them why the training matters, and make it relevant to their personal life and career goals. • Stick to the agenda. • Allow them to skip steps and find shortcuts; reward them for efficiency. • Take time to link classroom learning to the big picture. • Move quickly; then move faster.Millennials/ Gen Y: Born 1980 - 2000
• Provide lots of feedback, supervision, direction, and attention. • Use technology and multimedia. Gen Y is very, very comfortable with technology and cannot imagine life without it. Try to have the latest in technology, and make sure you know how to use it. • Make it fun and entertaining. Gen Y responds well to games, recognition, prizes, and visuals. Include multimedia, music, art, games, and creativity. • Utilize experiential learning techniques that incorporate team interaction and hands-on participation, such as case studies, team projects, presentations, teaching others, and so on. • Let them exchange information verbally or via texting to satisfy their need for social interaction.Millennials/ Gen Y: Born 1980 - 2000
As you can see from the tips, there isn’t going to be a “silver bullet” you can use that will hit the needs, preferences and styles of each generation. Remember, not only are you trying to deliver training for each generation, you also have unique individuals within the generations. A “one-size-fits-all” solution is a training program that really isn’t a solution at all. Various training modalities have advantages and disadvantages for different employees. The differences between generations certainly plays into how you can design an effective training program blending together various methods and tools to create a comprehensive program that speaks to your employees – regardless of their generation.The word cloud(wordle.net) on the rightwas created from matchingtraining modality with eachgeneration. The bigger theword the more frequently itappears acrossgenerations. This is a goodrepresentation of the mix oftraining modalities that maywork well in a multi-generational workforce.. Word Cloud created at wordle.net
Diagram Source: Corbett, S. (2008). Targeting different generations. In B. Hoffman (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Educational Technology
Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Household Data, Not Seasonally Adjusted: Table A-13: Employment Status of the CivilianNoninstitutional Population by Age, Sex, and Race" (2012).New Study: Generational Differences in the Workforce Matter, HR.BLR.comN-gen People Performance Inc. www.ngenperformance.comLynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman. When Generations Collide: Who They Are. Why They Clash. How To Solve the GenerationalPuzzle at Work (HarperBusiness, 2002)Images: gettyimages.com, google.com and sxc.huBizLibrary Online Training ContentManaging Workforce Generations: Introduction to Cross-generational Employees (elearning course)Managing Workforce Generations: Working with a Multigenerational Team (elearning course)Managing Workforce Generations: Working with the 21st-century Generation Mix (elearning course)Employing Generation Why: Training Young Minds (streaming video)Generational Diversity (streaming video)The Ageing Workforce (streaming video)