The Generation Gap in Work

Today’s workplace is more diverse agewise than ever before. Presently, experts find that there are five distinct generations of workers. What might be the reason for this?  People are living longer because of increased health, while other older workers decide to put off retirement. While some might believe that older workers think that their years of learning are in the past, experts have found that isn’t necessarily the case.

Has the gap between generations been overestimated?

In a recent study conducted by Skillsoft, a global learning and talent management company, researchers believe that the generation gap that is thought to exist on teams made up by workers from several different generations is a lot less than what many might think.  There is a commonly held belief that younger workers, often referred to as millennials, as well as those from Generation Z, are better able to learn because they have had constant access to information. However, companies are finding that older workers are just as capable of using more recent technologies for learning just as well as their younger counterparts.

The Root of Misconceptions Regarding Multi-Generational Learning

“For years, the media has popularized stereotypes that millennials have dramatically different values, needs and preferences than other working generations. This has compelled many HR teams to address millennials almost as if they were a unique species,” says Kieran King, Vice President of Global Enablement, Customer Insight & Field Marketing at Skillsoft.

“The real insight is that millennials are not driving changes in HR.  Rather, it is the accelerated pace of work, our consumer experiences and the pervasiveness of technology affecting all generations that is driving the need for change,” King continued.

King believes that far too much of what we think we understand about millennial workers is based more anecdotal rather than scientific evidence.These misperceptions are not useful for HR professionals to hang on to.

Closing the Generational Divide

The 85% rule, as created by Sargeant Kris Allshouse, states that according to the methods of training new law enforcement officers, 15% of training is received in a traditional classroom environment with an instructor delivering materials and questions and answers while the remaining 85% of learning occurs more organically. This organic learning happens through conversations and classroom interactions between peers. HR professionals have adapted this 85% as a way to educate workers across generations.

This approach, according to Allshouse, is one where the students’ ability to reason and introspect are fully appreciated.  “Moreover, the critical thinking that is built into the process grants students the confidence going forward to know that they can figure things out in the same way,” Allshouse said.

HR professionals can use a similar approach in creating a learner-centric environment that offers a number of different modalities for workers can learn.  These can range over several different platforms can give workers a greater capacity to learn new on-the-job skills which can help them perform job functions more effectively.  Delivery of these learning modalities should be mobile, on-demand and be application as well being retention driven. Allshouse and King agree that this type of corporate learning needs to be embedded into every employee’s experience.

Workplace diversity is a fact. Today’s workforce is diverse in terms of age and many other factors. While no two workers are the same and offering each the capacity to learn new skills and contribute to the company is important for morale and to your bottom line, offering options that address learning styles rather than age groups is essential.

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