One of the key challenges faced by modern managers is meeting the diverse needs of a multigenerational workforce. The varying differences of experience, skills, and attitude between each generation can make it difficult to create of eLearning modules that engage all ages and backgrounds.
This is also compounded by the fact that there is a greater level of diversity in the workplace when it comes to those generational gaps.
This is partially due to the fact that fewer Baby Boomer employees (age 55+) are retiring before the age of 65. According to studies, 72% of pre-retirees now say that their ideal retirement includes work in some capacity, and 62% of those surveyed say that the decision to work after retirement is financially motivated.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Millennials (ages 18-34) now are numbered at 75.4 million, surpassing the 74.9 million Boomers. They also surpass previous generations as the largest share of the American workforce as more than one-in-three American workers today are Millennials.
This age divide can create different issues for each group when it comes to training needs, skill development, and technology usage in the workplace. In one survey, 75% of managers said that managing a multigenerational team was a challenge.
So how can employers overcome these obstacles and introduce effective eLearning that engages workers at every level? It comes down to understanding the needs of each generation and using their individual strengths to create a cohesive learning environment.
Here are some of the key areas employers should focus on to successfully create multigenerational eLearning training materials.
The Challenges of Training Millennial Employees
Millennials were born in the middle of the tech revolution, and as a group, they’re more familiar with technology than older generations.
They’re also more purpose-driven than older generations. They want the companies they work for to make a difference, more meaning from their careers, and a better work-life balance. This means that training them will be about more than just teaching them a skillset; it will require using technology to instill a passion for the job.
With Millennial employees predicted to make up nearly 50% of the workforce by 2020, employers will need to make specific accommodations to help them integrate into the workplace successfully.
Convincing Gen X and Boomers to Embrace eLearning
It’s important that employers not overlook older generations in an effort to appease incoming Millennials. Generation X, defined as those between the ages of 35-54, and Baby Boomers still make up a large portion of the workforce and come with their own needs for engagement.
While using technology for training can create more learning opportunities for these age groups, it also presents a challenge for older generations, as capabilities of using that technology differ greatly between generations.
Employers will need to find learning solutions that bridge the gap without creating animosity between the generations.
Using Gamification to Bridge the Gap
Because an understanding of technology is often a divider between generations, employers will need to find ways to bridge the gap. Gamification, or the addition of game-like features to training materials, is one way to do that.
Adding gamification to eLearning can help employers create training materials that appeal to a broad user base. Gamification techniques aren’t necessarily based on age (as every generation can be rewarded) so a variety of rewards can be used to facilitate learning.
This allows companies to create more rewarding learning experiences without the hindrances of technology for older learners.
Tweaking eLearning Materials for Specific Audiences
In order to create more tailored learning experiences, employers will also need to target their materials to engage specific audiences. This includes a discovery process to identify the goals of each demographic, their educational backgrounds, understanding of technology, and willingness to learn.
It will be important for materials to adapt to different learning styles and use a variety of engagement techniques to challenge, assess, and teach learners from different backgrounds and different generations. This could include using images, text, videos, or other mediums to reach audiences.
Employers will need to understand how each audience best receives input and how to tweak materials to help users retain more information.
Identifying the Most (And Least) Helpful Technologies
Employers will also need to choose the right technologies to improve engagement for different groups.
Should online videos be used to improve job performance instead of a standard slideshow? Which images will best be displayed online versus on a printed handout? Should employees use mobile technologies to train from home or should it be kept in-office?
Millennials in particular prefer casual, done-at-home learning using mobile technologies, while Gen Xers often desire to leave their work at work. Understanding these differences can help companies utilize the right technology and tools for better job performance.
Answering Training Questions from Each Generation
Employees from different generations will most likely have different goals for their learning experience, which translates into different questions they will ask throughout the process.
Older generations may want to develop practical, hands-on skills, like operating machinery or learning about different programs and tools. Younger generations, on the other hand, may want to work on soft skills, like leadership or management training.
Companies will need to be able to identify the outcomes of multigenerational learners in order to preempt tough questions and craft strategic solutions for even the most complicated training problems that arise.
How to Train Large Groups Simultaneously
Finally, employers will also need to know how to deliver targeted eLearning materials for large, diverse groups at the same time. New hires of any age or demographic need more training than long-time employees who only need a refresher course.
Hiring booms can also impact eLearning training materials, as the needs of a large audience may differ from that of a small or less diverse audience. An influx of Gen X workers will also impact eLearning differently than the sudden arrival of Millennials.
Employers will need to find practical solutions for developing effective materials that can withstand the test of time as well as fit the needs of large, multigenerational employees.
Although each generation can offer different benefits to an organization, it’s important for employers to understand the unique training needs of each group in order to create the most effective eLearning materials.
Technology will be a major factor in training. Helping older generations bridge the gap with younger generations through technology will be essential, though employers should also understand the limitations of technology for Gen X and Baby Boomers.
Along with tweaking materials for multiple generations, employers will also need to focus on more aspects of diversity, such as gender, race, religion, and location, in order to create the most effective and engaging materials.
While all of this may seem complicated or overwhelming, it should be noted that at the end of the day, employees are people, and engaging people can be done with a variety of techniques, technologies and tools. There’s no set standard for what an eLearning course must include, so companies can find whatever method works for their employees.