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Posted by on Jun 25, 2014

4 Generation Workforce: Instructional Challenges for Human Resources & Management Leaders

187490183They’ve been called Generation Y. They’ve been called Echo Boomers. They may go by different names, but there’s no debate about their effect on business. They are the fastest growing segment of your employee population. They’ve been trained to use their heads more than their hands to solve problems.  It will take a new set of leadership skills to understand their perspective and motivate them to succeed.” 

–  Donald D. Shandler, Ph.D., Assistant Vice President, Graduate and Adult Education, Marymount University, and author of Motivating the Millennial Knowledge Worker.

Historically, this is the first time that there are four different generations concurrently in the workforce. The anchor years for these generations are: silents (b.1925-1942), boomers (b. 1943-1960), generation X (b. 1961-1981) and millennials (b.1982-2003). America’s new four generation workforce brings different values, needs, preferences, behaviors and experiences to the workplace. It’s critical for today’s senior leadership, line managers, and training professionals to realize that their multigenerational staff may require different learning styles and preferences.

More specifically, there are critical instructional design considerations that must be addressed when designing and developing programs for the four generations that now work and learn together. For those professionals charged with the responsibility of engaging, training, and educating a high- performing multigenerational workforce they must plan and accommodate for the commonalities and differences that each population exhibits.

In particular, it’s essential to focus on the learning preferences of the three largest cohorts presently in the workforce. Boomers have a preference for classroom-based and career-related programs; Generation X express enthusiasm for online programs and learning for both fun and enrichment; and, Millennials, as digital natives, have an intense interest in technology-enabled learning with little tolerance for boredom.

To be an effective manager of these generational differences:

  • Recognize the unique learning preferences of the four generational cohorts now driving America’s economy, and in particular the millennials.
  • Identify inclusive learning strategies to design multigenerational learning experiences.
  • Appreciate the importance of the millennial knowledge worker as a seminal force and centerpiece of a rapidly changing workforce.
  • Incorporate technology-mediated learning methods to meet generational learning needs.

Staff directly serving the training and professional development needs of the generations should:

  • Expand their instructional design strategies to include generational learning preferences.
  • Encourage the application of generational learning strategies to enhance an existing or proposed learning experience.
  • Stay current on the growing body of generational research impacting workplace learning and performance.
  • Reconcile the balance of classroom-based and technology-enabled learning.

Stuart H. Weinstein, Ph.D is Practice Leader – Instructional Systems at Management Concepts.   Additionally, he was a contributing author to Motivating the Millennial Knowledge Worker (Axzo Press – Crisp Fifty-Minute Books, Paperback, 257 pages, December 2009).   In addition to his role at Management Concepts, Dr. Weinstein teaches Principles of Training and Development and Corporate Distance Training in the Instructional Systems Development graduate program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

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