How Digital Transformation Will Impact Generations in the Workplace

play button graphicIn the latest edition of our series on Digital Transformation, we will compare and contrast learning approaches used to capture the attention of the various generations in the workplace. We’ll discuss learning preferences of each generation and possible strategies to use for multi-generation learning events.

Generations in the Workplace

As a learning leader you need to be anticipating the needs of your future workforce. It’s understood that today’s workplaces include at least three generations of workers:

  • Baby Boomers (born in early 1940s – early 1960s)
  • Generation X (Gen X for short) (born in early 1960s to early 1980s)
  • Millennials (born in early 1980s to early 2000s)

According to Deloitte’s “Millennial Survey 2014,” 75% of the workforce will be Millennials by 2025.

Some Baby Boomers may be planning for their retirement, while others envision a long work life but one that’s more flexible than the first decades of their career. Many Baby Boomers have committed work routines to memory, and thus are uneasy with the thought of their work environment being turned on its head due to a digital business strategy.

Gen Xers may be more comfortable with the idea of changing roles and processes, since their working years have been marked by so many technological advances. However, they still will need time to process what changes will mean for their role – not only what the change can bring to them, but what they can bring to the change. Millennials are not only used to a rapid pace of change, they expect that each wave of change will bring improvements, streamlining their processes and incorporating the latest technologies.

Addressing Learning Preferences

As a learning leader, you’ve got to make decisions on how to spend your content design and development dollars. It can be prohibitively expensive to deploy and maintain separate learning solutions on each new topic for each generation of learner. Instead, build-in instructor and learner notes that present options for how to use materials depending on the audience. If your solution blends in elements that appeal to different preferences, you’ll have a winning approach.

Group activities such as role-play, followed by time to practice new skills on their own should appeal to Baby Boomers, since they enjoy interaction but may prefer to receive constructive criticism in a one-on-one setting. Make sure that the group activities are designed to be realistic—yet fun, and a low enough intensity that they will be inclusive to all workers. Gen Xers appreciate relevance, and will ask for options to explore new tasks “their way” whenever possible. Finally, if your learners include Millennials, challenge your team to design the group work to be technology-enabled, have social components, yet still be individually evaluated, since this is their normal way of working.

Summary of key concepts we addressed in this blog post:

  • Generations in the current and future workplace
  • Addressing learner preferences

Chances are, you’re already designing learning solutions that must appeal to and be effective for multiple generations. Survey your learners – seek their input early! The goal is that your investment to adapt content to multiple generations will be recouped when you measure gains in skills, productivity, and digital literacy.

We hope you found this discussion helpful, and we invite you to join the conversation by leaving your comments below. Ready for some fun? Play the brief trivia game below to test what you’ve learned from this blog.

Stay tuned for the next installment of this multi-part series, where we will discuss how organizational change management approaches are adapting to address our digitally transforming work environments.

Ellen Kumar

Ms. Kumar is a Solution Architect with GP Strategies, and has served in roles ranging from Account Executive, to Operations Director, to Project Manager/Training Consultant. Prior to GP Strategies, she worked for University of Dayton Research Institute and GE Aircraft Engines (now GE Aerospace). She holds an M.S. in Materials Science & Engineering from University of Dayton.
2 comments on “How Digital Transformation Will Impact Generations in the Workplace
  1. Ginger says:

    Thanks Ellen, another great post. The trivia at the end is clever!

  2. Ellen says:

    thanks, Ginger, glad that it resonates with you.

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