The behavior, traits and learning styles of four generations in one workplace create unique challenges to leaders and organizations. Industry leaders learn to leverage those differences. Employee Development Systems, Inc. provides programs that help all generations improve professionalism in the workplace and increasing personal effectiveness, giving them the tools they need to successfully communicate with each other. Effective training and development organizations offer programs and learning reinforcement tools that are well-suited to a variety of generations. They take into account formal and informal learning channels. Most of all, they accommodate a diverse knowledge and use of technology. Here are some of the tactics used:
- Offer mentoring programs that are toggled to training programs.
- Keep employees engaged.
- Open up the office –rearrange the traditional cube structure.
- Create recognition programs.
- Focus on the meaning and purpose of the work.
- Leverage unique skills.
Successful employee development across the generations can be summed up in one word: Customization. Tailoring employee experience gives leadership the leverage it needs to effectively develop employees of all generations.
Offer mentoring programs that are toggled to training programs.
Break down stereotypes by organizing mentors by strengths and mentees by weakness as they relate to the current training initiative. For example, if employees are being trained in new technology, many of the mentors may be in Generation X or the Millennial Group. If the training focuses on processes or systems within the organization, boomers or traditionalists may be better qualified to be mentors.
Keep them engaged! A disengaged worker can often cost more than an open position in a company, so maintaining an employee development program, even in difficult times is better for the bottom line than cutting out all employee development activities, and running the company on a staff of disgruntled workers. Avoid this by providing regular educational and training opportunities as well as career advice. Each generation tends toward different motivators. Find what they are and address them directly.
Open up the office. Recognize that a (real or perceived) rigid management structure is de-motivating for Millennials. They prefer open plans that allow them to collaborate with colleagues, share information and feel that they are directly contributing to results.
Create recognition programs. Accommodate motivators of each generation by providing the recognition that each one seeks. Boomers and Traditionalists seek respect and roles of authority. Members of Generation X want to have their work/life balance supported, through flexible schedules and telecommuting. Millennials appreciate an unregulated work environment, coaching and frequent positive feedback.
Focus on the meaning and purpose of the work. Don’t let a day go by without focusing again on the meaning of the work everyone is being asked to do. This cuts through generational (and other) differences and reminds employees of why they are here.
Leverage unique skills. Maximize what each member brings to the table. Ask team members to reply to statements such as, “Here’s what I have to offer the team for this project, “or “Here is the kind of support I’d like to receive.” These kinds of statements help team members focus on their own skills and entreat their colleagues to do the same.
Research indicates that up to 70% of learning occurs following a training event. Employee Development Systems Inc. (EDSI, Inc.) embraces its role of ensuring that learners realize their full potential and continue the learning process well beyond a single training event. We reinforce learning through one-on-one follow-up contact, program impact refreshers via email, and social media streams.
Embracing the New Role of Training and Leadership Development Firms
The role of trainers and educators has changed in the last few years. In the past, companies relied solely on training program delivery to enhance employee skills. Now that role has expanded. For example, Employee Development Systems, Inc. (EDSI Inc.) not only delivers training programs but also ensures that the learning that takes place is reinforced beyond the classroom. Jim Kirkpatrick and Wendy Kayser Kirkpatrick put it succinctly when they stated,
“We survive and thrive when we understand that our role as workplace professionals is not to deliver training programs but to extend learning from episodic interventions to continual on-the-job enrichment. Ultimately, our role is to deliver demonstrated value to our business partners.”