Millennials may be on the rise, but if your organization is like most, your staff probably spans multiple generations, each carrying their own cultural differences and learning styles. Finding an effective training solution that applies to all can be difficult; but when you really think about it, the transfer of knowledge boils down to one thing: communication. The question is: How do you communicate what, and to whom? I’ve included some tips below.
Understanding the different generations
We throw around terms like “baby boomers,” “gen X’ers” and “millennials” all the time, but do we really know the characteristics of each? Here’s a nifty little chart to clear things up:
Although the above information is nowhere near exhaustive, it at least clarifies the age brackets and some general traits of each generation.
How different generations learn
We have a general idea of the differences between generations, but how do they prefer to learn?
- Baby Boomers prefer the “old school” method of learning. You may find them referencing books (actual books) or attending live, in-person training classes or conferences. They are the ones who prefer to print emails first, and then read them. They love hard copies.
- Gen X and Y’s are sort of the middle children. They’re a mix of old school and new school. They prefer formal and informal learning; you’ll find them getting information from things like blogs and podcasts. They’re tech savvy but not quite as much as millennials. They’re much more visual than verbal, and they prefer to learn by doing.
- Millennials, being tech savvy, prefer bursts of learning. They have shorter attention spans and learn better via digital media and video; they work best with experience-based learning and need very specific, detailed objectives when given projects.
Bridging the gap
The best approach for training across a multigenerational staff is to create an environment where knowledge is openly shared and easily accessed instead of being guarded. To do this, employees have to be genuinely interested in helping each other learn and grow.
- Mix it up – create a multigenerational group of employees to work together to promote information sharing
- Play to each generation’s strengths – for example, Baby Boomers can help document and lead a process, while Gen X and Y’s can streamline and automate it
- Make a plan – create a multigenerational training program for your team to equip them with the skills to effectively communicate with one another
Keep in mind that what may work for some groups may not work for others. Only you know your employees’ work styles and behaviors on the job, so keep it open and experiment with what works best for your team. After you bridge those gaps, you can start focusing on harnessing the potential of a highly effective team.
How do you enhance communication across multiple generations at your organization? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please leave a comment below.