Monday, April 9, 2007

Generations require different training approaches

When designing and presenting training, it would be great if a one-size-fits-all approach worked every time. In today's drive-through world, cookie-cutter training just won't work. Younger workers often enter the workforce with sophisticated computer skills and a healthy dose of skepticism. Training a forty-year old with two kids and a mortgage is very different from training a young employee who may work only to finance that next trip to South America.

To keep younger trainees' interest, training must be innovative, with less reliance on lecture and more reliance on computer-based approaches and trainee interaction. The younger generations, our Gen Xers (roughly 1965 to 1976) and the Gen Yers (roughly 1977 - 2002) require more interactive learning and the opportunity to shape the direction of the training module. These generations grew up with computer, the Internet and sound bites. They turn you off quickly if you don't catch their interest early.

The more technology used in training for Xers and Yers, the better. Including visuals and letting learners voice their problems to seek solutions will increase the interest of the younger generation. Awards and prizes, even if they're token, increase interest and participation and hence, retention. A break every hour is good advice for any class, but imperative for Xers and Yers.

While one training module may be applicable to all generations, for example in customer service training, it's important the trainer understands his or her audience. Use examples that will reach the target audience. If you refer to Ozzie and Harriet, for example, you'll get a blank look and eye rolls from the under-50 crowd.

Working across generations complicates training. When developing training, make sure you tailor material to the generations you are trying to reach.

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