There was a time generations were 21 years apart – the span between becoming an adult and raising one. As information and culture changes sped up, the word became less about lifespan and more about disconnects in understanding – and the gap decreased to about 15 years. Fast forward to today, and the dizzying speed with which technology is advancing, and we are calling it at around seven years.
That means soon (for the first time) there are going to be 5 generations at the workplace – each with varying experiences, skill sets, and expectations. Not to mention different ways of learning.
What does that mean for training? Before we answer that, let’s look at the characteristics of these five generations:
1. Traditionalist – Born between 1900 and 1945, many of these more experienced workers have opted out of retirement (for the moment) or returned to the workforce out of necessity. They lived through WWII, the Great Depression, and they understand what hard work and loyalty are all about.
2. Boomer – Born between 1946 and 1964, these social pioneers understand what “change” is all too well – they were part of the Civil and Women’s Rights movements, fought in Vietnam and put the first man on the moon. They grew up in a time defined by pushing against boundaries.
3. Gen X – The independent spirits born between 1965 and 1976 came of age in an era of technological advances from the microwave and VCR to the personal computer and the Internet. They survived the Gulf War and the AIDS crisis, to see the Berlin Wall fall, and experience the first mobile phones.
4. Millennial (Gen Y) – Don’t call them “entitled.” These tech-dependent (as Jason Dorsey corrects those who call them tech “savvy”), 20-to-30-somethings born 1977 to 1997 are confident, social, and driven to give back.
5. Gen 2020 – Sometimes called Gen Z, these 15-year-olds (and younger) born after 1997 have yet to join the workforce, but will soon. Apps, social games, and tablets are staples in their world. It will be interesting to see how rapidly advancing technology affects their peak career years.
As you can see, these five generations offer vastly different work/life experience. So will they respond equally to the same stimulus? Probably not. Do you need five different training methods to reach them?
Swipe Right for Common Ground
“Traditionalists think Boomers should ‘do as they’re told.’ Boomers think Xers should put in longer hours and gradually work their way up the ladder. Now along comes Generation Y and guess what? They have a whole new way of thinking.”
Given that, it’s surprising that what actually unites these generations is technology, or rather the ubiquity of it.
Writing for TechCrunch, Greylock Partners’ Josh Elman combines Generations Y and Z into another group he calls “Generation T (Touch).”
“Generation T understands and anticipates gestures at a level beyond that which people who grew up with a mouse and keyboard expect.”
But that doesn’t tell the full story – swiping right to unlock your phone is something you will see a two-year-old AND a sixty-two-year-old do with the same ease. Perhaps the sixty-two-year-old isn’t itching to join Snapchat, but they aren’t pining to go back to an old flip phone, either. How many times have YOU touched your smartphone’s screen today?
And so for the record, I identify as Gen T, and I just turned forty. So while I agree with the idea broadly, I believe Gen T exceeds its presumed limitations. Digital technology touches everyone – the difference is a matter of degrees.
Time, Technology and Training – all move in one direction
So what does all of this mean for training? It means that training must focus on the technology and workers of the future, without alienating anyone in the present. The key here is simplicity.
In Operations & Maintenance training – intuitive, visual technology like 3D interactive virtual training – becomes the new messenger. The message is still the same: efficient training that results in a safe, productive workforce.
To that end the focus should be:
1. User Experience (UX)– Drawing them into the learning experience by making it memorable and engaging for all generations – like a trip to the planetarium.
2. User Interface (UI)– Making it as easy as swiping right; Every generation is at ease with this level of interaction and EXPECTS this now.
Here’s an example of a maintenance training app that accomplishes these first two points –
3. User Feedback– Actively soliciting feedback from EVERYONE, not just the newbies or young’uns.
Multiple generations in the workplace is only a problem if you let it be. Provide solid training, using all technology has to offer, and the rest will fall into place.
Reach out now to discuss your training roadmap.