Magazine article Training & Development

Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in Your Workplace

Magazine article Training & Development

Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in Your Workplace

Article excerpt

Ron Zemke, one of the authors of Generations at Work, is senior editor of that other publication, Training. He spoke with us recently about this latest project.

Training & Development: Why this book? Why now?

Zemke: This is the first time in history that people from so many generations have been working alongside each other. Previously, the workforce was highly stratified by age, with the eldest at the top. Now, there's no hierarchy left, and all those different experiences and backgrounds can lead to conflict.

T&D: You seem to say in the book that companies ignore those generational conflicts at their peril.

Zemke: Yes. Organizations need to acknowledge the sources of those conflicts, and take as much care in communicating about them as they do over other differences. Generations are just another dimension of diversity.

T&D: What about training across generations? Should trainers tailor their approach depending on the age of their audience?

Zemke: Absolutely, although you must be careful to avoid stereotyping and overgeneralizing. Trainers have to keep the individual's learning comfort in mind. Being generationally aware is just another nail in the coffin of one- size-fits-all training methods.

T&D: In expecting trainers to adapt their approaches to learners of varying age, aren't we asking them to try to be all things to all people?

Zemke: The typical Baby Boomer (1946 to 1960) trainer relies on standup training and lots of fun and games. If that's the only thing you know, you're going to have a problem.

The resources and methodologies are there for trainers to adapt their approaches quickly. I also think we're going to see even more of a trend toward in-house trainers becoming resource facilitators, and outsourcing a lot of their training needs.

T&D: In talking about specific ways to train people of the different generations, you and your co-authors speculate that the Nexters (people born between 1980 and 2000) will have a lot in common with the Veterans (born 1922 to 1943) as far as their work ethic goes. When the Nexters enter the workplace, will we have come full circle as far as the free agent learner is concerned?

Zemke: No. Generation Xers (1960 to 1980) will always be free agent learners, and they're likely to be the workplace leaders when the Nexters enter the workforce. …

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