by Vince Cyboran
Much ado has been made about the differences among generations: Veterans, Boomer’s, Gen X, and Gen Y (Millenials). Certainly, a cottage industry has grown around capitalizing on what to do with these generations in the workplace, including how to address their training needs. While some authors focus on how to cater to the learning needs across the generations (Zemke, Raines, & Filipczak, 2013), most focus exclusively on Gen X and Millenials. For example, when training Millenials, Werth and Werth (2011) recommend including multimedia elements, and Carstens and Beck (2005) recommend that the trainer include the use of games.
Finding empirical evidence to support generation-specific recommendations for training different generations is made more problematic by the lack of specificity in how the topic is approached. For example, a recent forum on LinkedIn posed the question: “Do you find Millennial Learners Are Not Traditional Learners?” One might ask, “What is a traditional learner?” Further, one might ask: “What exactly are you asking?” Such topics-because of their non-specificity–invite diffuse discussions.
While it is true that the different generations have been introduced to various technologies at different points in their lives, there is no solid, empirical evidence that the act of learning itself differs by generation. In our effort to provide learners and organizations with the best and newest techniques, we sometimes get distracted by bright, shiny objects: micro-learning, gamification, etc. We suffer from what the late educational theorist Paolo Freire described as the ‘fetish of method’ (Bartolomé, 1994). That is, if we can just use the right method in our training, all will be well.
Questions to consider:
- What challenges have you experienced with cross-generational learning at work?
- What advice do you have for designing or delivering cross-generational training at work?
- Bartolomé, L. (1994). Beyond the methods fetish: Toward a humanizing pedagogy. Harvard Educational Review, 64(2), 173-195.
- Carstens, A., & Beck, J. (2005). Get ready for the gamer generation. TechTrends, 49(3), 21-25.
- Werth, E. & Werth, L. (2011). Effective training for millennial students. Adult Learning, 22(3), 12-19.
- Zemke, R., Raines, C., & Filipczak, B. (2013). Generations at work: Managing the clash of boomers, gen xers, and gen yers in the workplace (Rev. ed.). New York, NY: AMACOM.