Today’s workplace is made of various and very different generations. In theory, employees vary in age from eighteen to seventy-five. For L&D professionals this means that they have to manage a very big range of expectations when it comes to learning and career development.
The CIPD’s Tapping into Talent report found that every generation comes with its own distinct preferences when it comes to training. Generation X and Millennials go for general development and would rather learn independently, while Baby Boomers and Veterans are more into the traditional classroom or manual-based training.
A lot of the recent studies and articles focus on the Millennial segment as they are predicted to make up for the majority of the workforce in the very near future. In this article we will also take a look at the other parties who are at the office these days.
As the name suggests, many have already reached the retirement age. Born between 1927 and 1945, Veterans (also called the Silent Generation) today are in their 60s, 70s, and 80s. Most of the ones who are still employed are working in the legal field as aging partners, managers or counselors. They have fantastic job ethics, cherish their jobs (probably because they were very young during the Depression) and are overly loyal to colleagues as well as employers.
Even though they have great expertise and most of the time know better than anyone else in the room, they are great team workers and get on very well with others. Unlike the younger generations, they are less tech-savvy and prefer face to face interaction. They actually enjoy long lectures and meetings and don’t feel the need for modern technology in the workplace.
Born between 1946 and 1964, the Baby Boomer generation is currently in their 40s and 50s. They are rather well-established in their careers and have important roles of authority within their organizations. Actually, this generational segment constitutes a large majority of today’s CEOs, CFOs and corporate leaders.
A recent survey by Altman Weil, for instance, found that nearly two-thirds of law firm respondents (63%) attributed a quarter or more of revenues to partners age 60 or older. Roughly 42% counted on the over-60s for at least 35% of revenues.
A general description of Baby Boomers is that they are loyal, work-centric and somewhat cynical. This generation has lived through many changes in their industries and have adapted accordingly. They don’t mind putting in long hours at work but expect praise for it.
Where learning is concerned, they accept (but not necessarily welcome) the new technologies and though they are aware of the importance of constantly improving their competencies, they would rather not do so on their already limited personal time. They also prefer face to face interaction and will not easily get on board for alternative workshops or wellbeing seminars.
In this category we fit those born between 1965 and 1980. This generation marks a period of birth decline so they are not as numerous. Members of Generation X are largely in their 30’s and early 40’s and mostly hold mid-level positions within their organizations.
They are the first to come with a very different work culture and ethic. Unlike the slightly workaholic Baby Boomers, Generation X places a great value on time spent with family. It’s not that they lack ambition but need a very good work/life balance to be happy in their roles. They were the first to question rigid requirements, ask for flexible work schedules and propose work from home options.
Very entrepreneurial in spirit, this generation enjoys being creative, tackling challenges and embraces diversity in the workplace. Without being disloyal, they will not hesitate to search for other employment if they are not happy where they are.
When it comes to learning, they would rather be autonomous. Allowing them to set their own goals and providing them with the means to achieve those goals without constantly supervising or micromanaging them is the best way to go. Even if they were not necessarily raised ton technology, they embrace it and prefer modern methods of training delivery.
Generation Y has been taking the workforce by storm. Also known as the Millennials, they are the fastest growing employee segment. Even though most of them hold entry level positions, they are very ambitions and expect to evolve quickly. This is a very dynamic, optimistic, tech-savvy generation. It seeks personal growth, creative challenges and will not put in time or effort into something it doesn’t believe in.
The preferred method of communication is via e-mail or text and they are excellent multi-taskers. Traditional classroom training, long meetings or paper-based materials are not their cup of tea. Web-based micro learning, video materials and most importantly the ability to access everything remotely are the way to go to engage this young generation. Keeping a good work/personal life balance is also of great importance to them as is immediate feed-back and praise.
All in all
Diversity in the workplace is ultimately a good thing as different ideas and various perspectives will always lead to better solutions. It is the job of managers and learning professionals to acknowledge and value these differences, to bridge the generational gap (learn how to do this by checking this infographic created by this employee appreciation solutions company) in order to build and maintain a positive and inclusive organizational culture.
Roxana is a learning and development professional with over 10 years experience in corporate training.