Dear Generation Gap:
I'm not so sure that different generations learn differently. Rather, I think they have different input preferences. Some people prefer to discover things on their own and learn how to be successful from their peers and others who face the same challenges. This is one of the mechanics that make games and some types of work so engaging.
By the way, the young people busy texting during a lecture could be sharing information, probably with their peers, and in a very real way learning from it. (Perhaps the trainer should learn from it as well. Answering crossword puzzles, however, is a different matter entirely.)
Some people prefer a book, a job aid, a video, an online tutorial—a resource to which they can refer later. Others simply want to experiment and learn on their own.
Still other people favor direct advice from trusted experts who can show them how to perform a certain task or project. Therein lies the appeal of mentoring.
Some people like to observe another person before they try things, while a certain group of folks find lectures to be helpful. For some, a combination of the above methods is appealing.
There are other delivery options. What I've found is that these different input preferences transcend generation.
You have both asked the question and provided the answer: Trainers and instructional designers need to vary the way training gets delivered, and enable people to select the method that works best for them. This involves:
- Focus on content relevant to individuals.
- Make it accessible.
- Offer various input/delivery options.
- Make the learning interesting (at least), engaging (at best) and memorable (to work).
- Provide opportunities for people to interact with others who in any way affect their work.
Follow these steps and you'll see that training across generations is not the most daunting training issue you face.
SOURCE: Alan Landers, FirstStep Talent Strategies, San Diego
LEARN MORE: Check out "Study: Generational Job Seekers Aren't Using All Their Tools."
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