Generation of Change: How Does Age Impact Employee Training?

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Different ages respond to training differently–millennials in particular. How to determine the best employee training for your business.

Employee training begins with the moment a new hire walks into an office, and it continues throughout the life cycle of the employee, which will vary depending on the individual’s age. 

As such, making the most of every training opportunity is essential. However, how can you give every employee a prime training experience when your workers have a varied demographic, ranging from millennials to baby boomers?

Consider hosting employee-training programs tailored and targeted for specific purposes and age levels as an alternative to catch-all employee-training sessions.

Millennials Versus Baby Boomers

Ever since the Second World War, the baby boomers have been the largest social demographic in the U.S. That is all about to change.

Millennials, individuals who were born from 1981 to 1997, now make up 53.5 percent of the American workforce compared to baby boomers at 44.6 percent, according to Pew Research. This equals to 53.5 million millennials, which encompasses one-third of all U.S. workers.

While these numbers are still relatively close, the differences in working styles of millennials and baby boomers are vast:

  • Millennials are less loyal to a single company; ages 25 to 34 have a median job tenure of 3 years compared to the 5.5. year median for those over 25 years including baby boomers, as noted by The Wall Street Journal. Millennials report expecting to work at more than six companies or locations within their lifetime with a desire to work for a purpose instead of a paycheck, according to Forbes.
  • Baby boomers prefer to stay at a single job for more than 30 years until retirement; changing to a new employer or company is a stressful situation.
  • Millennials want their voices to be heard by executives with the desire to move up rapidly within the ranks, while baby boomers are content with earning their way through the ropes through long-term advancement.
  • Millennials are tech-centric, preferring to communicate via email, text or social media, whereas baby boomers are more interested in talking over the phone or in person.

As a result, an employee-training program geared for both of these demographics is bound to miss the mark for part of the audience. By streamlining employee trainings to meet the needs of each of these demographics you stand to gain the greatest retention of information and ROI.

Related Article: Millennials In the Workplace: How Will They Affect Hiring?

Streamlining for Project-Centric Training

In order to create training programs geared at the different demographics in your workplace, take a streamlined approach. One method is to set up training programs based on upcoming projects. This allows you to organize a smaller niche audience with the focus on the training that applies to that project.

Those workers who are already working together will be included, for a more cohesive group, and the training will be focused to provide information needed at that moment. In other words, no one will feel like their time is being wasted.

Choosing a Training Facility and Style Based on Audience Demographic

Another route is to offer training at locations that attract different types of people. This way, you are likely to get a certain type of people at each location. You can provide the same training information at each training location. However, the types of workers who choose to meet at each facility will indicate the methods you will take to give the training.

Millennials enjoy more collaborative environments or self-paced environments, whereas baby boomers embrace the live, instructor-led, traditional classroom environment. Perhaps you could offer a “meet in the middle” scenario for these groups, with a hybrid-learning environment, including a virtual and instructor-led scenario. 

Related Article: How To Keep Your Employees Happy, Engaged, Productive And Loyal

Division Among the Ranks

The fact is, you don’t want to blatantly segment your employees so that they are divided according to age, gender, lifestyle or background. Though, if you want to make a training program more effective, you can let your employees divide themselves. Offer several options for training, such as different venues or amenities, so that your employees divide themselves among the available training.

You will get groups that are made up of colleagues who feel comfortable around one another. Be wary when taking this approach of the friend factor. For example, you may have a training session that is a train wreck because the group is spending more time gossiping and getting off track than actually investing themselves in the training.

Here are some ways to deter this from happening:

  • If you see cliques forming within training groups, then make a last-minute redistribution of the group, which can be as simple as picking numbers or counting off, i.e. 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3.
  • Offer incentives for groups that come up with the greatest number of actionable ideas through brainstorming, for example, within a training session.
  • Create mentorships across the board of the demographics, to increase the rate of communication and interaction between the millennials and baby boomers, both of whom have something to learn from each other.
     

Finding ways to conduct employee-training sessions so that everyone in your office can benefit is a challenge, especially with the newly evolving workforce of newer hires. However, if you identify the differences in learning and working styles among your group of employees, then you can tailor training programs to meet those styles. 

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