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How to Train the Different Generations

Posted by Marsha Weisleder on 10/27/14 4:00 AM
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Today it’s very common to have four different generations working side-by-side in the workplace. Can you imagine when they’re all in the same classroom? What’s a trainer to do? How can we accommodate the different ages, learning styles, and preferences of these different generations?


Let’s start by identifying the different generations, their preferences, and some generation-specific tips and instructional techniques:


Traditionalists (1900 -1945)

These are your older participants who, back in the day, learned the hard way. They tend to be polite, but don’t always volunteer.

Tip: Try to get them involved as soon as possible. They aren’t as interested in playing games but still like the session to be interactive.


Baby Boomers (1946 – 1964)

This group views training as a perk and believes too much can be a bad thing. They care about how they will look in front of senior management.

Tip: Reassure them that it’s okay to disagree, and encourage them to share their true feelings about a situation.


Generation X (1965 – 1980)

This generation places a high value on training and development. They were the first to play with video games and led the movement to get away from slides in the classroom.

Tip: Include exercises, activities, interactions, games etc. in your training because Gen Xers respond well to them. Also, be sure to explain how the content fits in the bigger picture and ties back to their careers.


Millennials (1981 – 1999)

This is the generation of lifelong learners who believe continuous learning is a way of life. They are a multitasking and playful group.

Tip: Speed up your training and include experiential training that allows them to come up with their own solutions.


Now, keep in mind, there are some generic principles that apply to all age groups. We review them in our Instructional Techniques for New Instructors workshop. Here are just four tips to consider:

1. Set ground rules early - This will help your younger learners stay focused and your older learners will appreciate knowing the rules early on. Going over housekeeping puts everyone at ease.

2. Make it interactive - All the generations like to speak and participate. Give them a chance to answer each other’s questions and comment on each other’s answers. Encourage everyone to share success stories and examples throughout the session.

3. Take frequent breaks - Everyone loves breaks. Your older learners will appreciate the opportunity to stretch and your younger learners may get antsy without them.

4. Be authentic - Don’t try to pretend to know what it’s like to be a Millennial or a Traditionalist. Be who you are and show your learners that you respect them for who they are. Let’s not judge each other and let’s be open to the different generations.


Yes, it takes more effort to think about the different learning preferences of your learners but, in the end, it’s worth it. So, my fellow trainers, what do you do to accommodate the different generations?


Dealing with Difficult Participants

Marsha has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience. She went on to attend Osgoode Hall Law School and practiced civil litigation for a few years. While working for a company as their in-house legal counsel, Marsha fell into a training position and never looked back! Each day, Marsha brings passion and excitement to her workshops, always encouraging her participants to find their own passion as well. Outside of the classroom, Marsha loves to spend time with her family, travel, and stay active. Of course her main obsession is Elvis! Some people might think she’s a little over-the-top about him, but doesn’t everyone have an Elvis shrine in their home? Maybe not…

Tags: instructional techniques

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Our very own world-class course leaders share their experiences, tips, best practices, and expertise on virtual training, instructional design, needs analysis, e-learning, delivery, evaluation, presentation skills, facilitation, and much more!

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