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Bridging the Generation Gap in Training

Photo: Ivelin Radkov / Thinkstock
If there is one sweeping generalization a training professional can make about the generation gap, it might be this:

The younger a person is, the more likely they will be looking for training that feels individualized and catered specifically to them (and perhaps to a shorter attention span); a program that gives them an experience, rather than a download of rules and information.

In a word, they want to be engaged.

Four generations in the workforce
A typical training room could host members of any of four main generations. Traditionalists (born before 1945) have mostly retired from the workforce, but a few are still working; Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964) are now starting to retire from the workforce; Generation X (born 1965–1980) might be moving into management or senior management roles; and Millennials (1981–2000) are making their way into the workforce.

Before delving too deeply into making broad generalizations about very large numbers of people, we have to remember that these are just that: Incredibly large generalizations that may not apply to every individual within that perceived generation. There are some Baby Boomers who act more like Generation Xers, and some Millennials who act more like Boomers.

Training younger generations
For younger generations, that might mean training more frequently, but in smaller chunks. It might also mean that as trainers, we need to find a way to make training more sensory and experiential, to activate more parts of the learners’ brains. Less formal training might be needed using different technological channels, including finding ways to use social media and company intranets to facili