Magazine article Training & Development Journal

Training the MTV Generation

Magazine article Training & Development Journal

Training the MTV Generation

Article excerpt

Training the MTV Generation

From Sesame Street to Star Wars, from Nintendo to MTV and into your business, a new force has entered the workplace in great numbers, and many companies are scratching their heads wondering how to train today's young adults for important jobs.

A bit intimidated by their looks, their style, or - maybe even more important - their age, trainers are finding challenges to tried and true methods of instruction. One of those challenges comes from an unlikely but powerful source.

MTV, the music-video cable channel that debuted just eight years ago, has had a rapid and radical effect on the way 18-to-25-year-olds receive information. And trainers who need to reach this group - the nation's primary source of entry-level workers - need to understand what MTV has wrought.

Training members of the MTV generation is no easy task. They require fast-paced, quick-cut training that is clear, concise, and relevant. Despite a general sophistication and worldliness, members of the MTV generation have short attention spans. Trainers have to cut through the fluff and get to the point. Training must turn them on so they will tune it in.

Take the case of Holiday Companies of Minneapolis. They recently used the term entertrainment to describe one of their training events, a session designed to heighten employee awareness of the company's customer-service movement. They bused 1,000 of their young, front-line, retail division employees to Paisley Park Studios, the recording complex built by rock star Prince. Food was served and music was played, but customer-service concepts were also introduced.

Follow-up activities reinforced the message as employees implemented their new program throughout the retail division. Holiday's HR department surveyed participants and found that 65 percent felt they'd received valuable information to use on the job.

Obviously there is some merit to the idea of entertrainment, but there's also danger. If trainers believe all they have to do is entertain, people will leave their sessions singing, dancing, and wondering what they learned.

Nonetheless, large employers of this age group - Kentucky Fried Chicken and Domino's Pizza for example - have found that, despite higher than usual development and presentation costs, glitzy MTV-style training formats are worth it because they help young trainees acquire more information.

Five suggestions will help you tailor training programs to today's 18-to-25-year-old audience.

Package it with punch. The days of long training programs are over. Adapt to their short attention span with short packages of training. Two to four hours seems to be the maximum time you can ask this group to focus. Break the training into modules, study guides, or mini-units. Intersperse training with work experiences and then relate the work to the training material.

Customization and flexibility are key. Let each participant plan the training program around his or her individual needs, attending only the modules that are part of that plan. One retail company uses a program designed around a series of independent study modules. Salespeople spend slow times reviewing a set of cards that spell out customer challenges and techniques for meeting them.

Try any option that yields high impact with the least amount of pain: quick overviews, short topical sessions, peer-to-peer training, or interactive video. …

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