Magazine article Talent Development

Embrace Differences When Training Intergenerational Groups: Common Conflicts May Arise among the Mixed Generations, but Keep Training Events on Track with Proper Design and Delivery

Magazine article Talent Development

Embrace Differences When Training Intergenerational Groups: Common Conflicts May Arise among the Mixed Generations, but Keep Training Events on Track with Proper Design and Delivery

Article excerpt

The work environment is more generationally diverse now than at any other time in recent history, with millions of Gen Xers ready to fill the space left by retiring Baby Boomers and millions more Millennials cementing their place in business. While most businesses understand the changing demographic of employees and realize that training approaches need to be tweaked to cater to a younger workforce, the true challenge exists when attempting to effectively deliver training across generational divides. The key to successfully training these diverse groups together is to promote understanding, facilitate communication, and provide flexibility.

Who's who

The first step in understanding the differences present among these generations is to examine the motivation behind those differences. Individuals born within the same generation, a span of approximately 20 years, typically have similar behaviors and shared value systems based on the way they experienced historical events and new technology during their formative years.

In terms of training and development, they may share communication preferences, learning styles, and desired delivery methods (see sidebar on page 64).

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers view the trainer as a knowledgeable counterpart. They place a heavy importance on qualifications and reputation. Because of the value Boomers place on intellect, trainers should create opportunities that transform knowledge into skills.

This generation values tenure and appreciates experience-based learning. Incorporate this into learning by engaging them. Have them share real-life scenarios. Place these learners in a mentoring role for younger participants to take advantage of their vast knowledge.

Baby Boomers may be insulted by continual feedback. Instead, solicit their opinion on the pace and effectiveness of the training session. They will feel flattered that you sought their suggestions and might open up about what they need from you as a trainer.

This generation is comprised of audio learners, meaning they retain information best when it is delivered orally. They are comfortable with traditional lecture formats and printed material.

Gen Xers need to view the facilitator as a subject matter expert regardless of their status. Trainers should be able to exhibit their expertise in real time if they want to be taken seriously by this generation. They value autonomy and feedback, whether on the receiving or giving end. Although their independent spirit rejects micromanaging, they flourish with frequent feedback that allows them to gauge their performance.

These participants are comfortable working in teams but prefer independent learning. Training will be most effective for them when there are frequent question-and-answer sessions between modules. They enjoy multimedia delivery methods that are organized and condensed.

Gen Xers are kinesthetic learners, meaning they need to be carrying out a physical activity to absorb information. This could entail playing with a stress ball while listening to a lecture or taking notes during a video.


Millennials see trainers as knowledgeable mentors with depth of real world experience. They respect authority and qualifications, but prefer their training to be instantly applicable and practical.

This generation values visual stimuli and prefers training that is rich in images and skimpy on text. Like the Gen Xers, they are reliant on feedback and prefer that it be immediate. This generation appreciates flexibility in where and when they receive learning.

Millennials regard teamwork and diversity as crucial to their list of work values. They prefer informal settings with constant stimulation to hold their fleeting attention spans. The more succinct the session, the better the results will be.

Members of this generation are kinesthetic learners, like Gen Xers, but they also are highly visual. …

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