The best designed learning systems don’t shy away from generational differences, but embrace them and use them as an opportunity to make training more impactful and even fun
Today, the workplace has evolved and expanded to accommodate different generations - from Baby Boomers to Gen X to the ever-increasing Millennials. Specifically in India, the generation gap is very evident and is often exacerbated when it comes to technological know-how, leadership styles, business etiquette or even dressing norms. Organizations are increasingly realizing that it is not practical or feasible to have stand-alone training programs for each respective generation. Which leads us to the question: How does the HR function design and deliver learning and development initiatives in this dynamic environment?
Any competency development program needs to be designed with the end-user in mind. At Dale Carnegie India, we focus on customizing our delivery and creating context as per the participants’ sector and seniority to increase relevancy. But, having experienced how challenging this can be in a public program where participants attend from across industries and designations, we are in an ideal position to offer guidance on how to design learning systems for diverse, multi-generational workplaces:
- Composition: Analyzing the workplace needs is imperative – whether it is through employee engagement surveys, skill-gap assessments etc. Once the goal of the training is in place, crafting a learning blueprint with the help of a representative group is the next step. If the employee pool contains people of all ages, it is important for the learning design team to be similarly diverse. If this is not possible, inputs from different functions and people from each age group can be sourced. For example, older generations are used to having their development plans crafted for them, while younger generations tend to be more participative in their learning – even requesting programs outside their functional areas. Getting inputs from all of them will help in incorporating relevant adult learning principles in the best possible manner and in keeping interventions practical and scalable. Sending small pre-assignments to a sample group for feedback is the best way to pin-point knowledge gaps which also fine-tunes the learning design to the workforce needs.
- Communication: Once the content is in place, tailoring it to different formats like videos, brochures, in-person delivery, emails, push notifications, etc. can be initiated. This ensures that a multitude of generations are reached simultaneously via a medium that is most comfortable to them. Any training program should speak the participant’s language – like using current references or analogies to generate interest in the program or communicate the benefits.
- Technology: When it comes to program delivery, most of the experienced generations are used to (and prefer) classroom learning with in-person instructors and facilitators – this method is still one of the most favored in India for getting results. But increasingly, millennials are demanding the integration of technology into their development plans, whether it is through apps, gamification, e-learning or live online delivery. This throws up many opportunities to design or include self-paced interventions, tracking systems or gamified and incentive-based learning programs. If there is resistance from those uncomfortable with using technology, there should be an effort in creating learning partners which is a mix of both young and older generations.
The Dale Carnegie India Employee Engagement Report revealed that just 35% of Indian employees agreed that they received adequate training to do their jobs well. This is due in a large part to the way interventions are designed. A defined goal, a collaborative approach and inclusive delivery can make any learning and development plan successful. The best designed learning systems don’t shy away from generational differences, but embrace them and use them as opportunities to make training more impactful and even fun. Like the workplace, training solutions (both content and delivery) need to be reoriented towards “Diversity Compatibility” – so that everyone benefits equally. That can only happen if there is a reconciliation and respect towards the differences that exist.