Building training strategy that bridges the generational divide
Today's workforce is complex and diverse, especially with digital natives starting to pour into the workplace as they complete their studies. That means companies need to put in place comprehensive training strategies that can accommodate older employees and millennials alike.
Tomorrow's most successful companies will be those that build organisational learning cultures and infrastructure that caters to a complex audience with different expectations of technology and varied learning styles.
Bridging the gap
Millennials have had access to technology throughout their lives. That means they have grown up to expect instant access to information and real-time feedback. They expect learning to be visual and entertaining, and they are self-directed and proactive in seeking answers to their questions.
This is a stark contrast to older generations who mostly learned to use technology when it started to pervade the workplace. They are accustomed to classroom learning, not only from school and university, but also from workplace training. And they are often more respectful of hierarchy than their younger co-workers.
Bridging the gap between these extremes is a complex challenge for any organisation. Businesses need to find a way to harness the best of both worlds - the energy of younger, more tech-savvy workers and the expertise and experience of more seasoned workers.
Age is not the only factor that determines how comfortable someone is with technology - education levels and earning power may also impact how familiar employees are with technology. Organisations should therefore accommodate a wide range of learning styles and comfort levels with IT in their training programmes.
One solution lies in creating learning hubs and communities that encourage collaborative learning among people with different strengths and learning styles. These hubs can create a platform where workers can share expertise and learning experiences with each other.
On the one hand, organisations need to use techniques such as gamification and multimedia to make these learning environments more efficient for tech-savvy millennials. They also need to try and capture business information in a searchable format for a generation that likes to answer its own questions. On the other hand, they need to encourage older workers to take on the role of mentors. That means they should make it easy for them to share their expertise across online platforms and to document the information they have in their heads in business systems.
Technology has become approachable
On the positive side, innovations such as touch-screen mobile phones and tablet computers have made technology more approachable and human. This means that technology can have a valuable role to, in creating a learning platform that accommodates diverse workforces.
Companies do need to focus on making high-tech learning more intuitive for older generations. Intuitive technology is generally well received and adopted by older generations. More accessible devices have made it easier to engage older and younger generations using the same platforms and devices.
There is a lot that tech can do to make training more cost-effective and accessible, but it is not a silver bullet. Companies must put time and effort into their strategy and approach to get the results they want. No technology can replace the value received from proper planning - that is training which is appropriate and customised for the needs of its audience.
About Ivanna Granelli
Ivanna Granelli - a teacher by training - moved into the corporate world as an IT trainer at SAPPI and First Paper House between 1991 and 1993. She decided in 1994 to create a business that combined her twin passions for education and technology and established Can!Do with the vision of helping companies to unlock the business value of their ERP systems through end-user training.