When I pitch an eLearning or gamified solution to clients, one question that I am guaranteed to be asked is How does the older generation take to this style of learning? In many organisations, the workforce is changing with employees ranging from Baby Boomers to those of Generation Z. This creates a challenge for many learning and development practitioners, and that is to provide a training solution that appeals to each generation’s learning style. Many organisations are already using eLearning or online learning to deliver training to their organization, but is this training truly impacting the older generations like the Baby Boomers and Generation X?
Baby Boomers – born between 1945 and 1964, and make up a smaller but still significant part of the workforce. Baby Boomers are generally unsure of technology and are focused on the quality of their work rather than speed or efficiency. Their learning style is linear, that is to say, they accept the information that is given to them and want information to be logical and concrete.
Generation X – born between 1961 and 1981, and make up a significant part of the workforce. This generation is more acceptable to technology and view change as an opportunity. Their learning style is informal, and they prefer interactive sessions. Generation X want to learn things that are applicable to them now, rather than a skill they will never use.
Generation Y – also known as the millennials, are born between 1975 and 1995. This generation is technology savvy. They are very flexible with their work and learning styles. They enjoy change and don’t stay put in an organisation for a long time. This generation likes interaction, communication and social activities. They prefer learning at their own pace, and to be able to choose the order of information received. They also like immediate feedback.
Generation Z – born between 1995 and 2015. Generation Z are beginning to enter the workforce. Like Generation Y, they are technology savvy and portray very similar work and learning styles. Generation Z love gamified solutions and social sharing, and believe that the more flexible the learning, the better it is.
It is more than likely that your eLearning solutions are beneficial for Generations Y and Z, but is it working for the Baby Boomers and Generation X?
Here are a few ways to make your eLearning solutions more effective for those older generations too:
- Motivate – It is important to let the Baby Boomers and Generation X know exactly why they are learning something new, and show them the impact it will have on their job performance. These generations like to know the how and the why of learning.
- Be flexible – Make your learning as flexible as possible. This will help you create a solution that appeals to all generations. An older employee may prefer to click on a link and read the training material, whilst a Generation Y employee might prefer audio recordings, and a Generation Z employee would want to watch a video. Try to include all of these elements in your training.
- Challenge them – The older generation generally like a good challenge. They have to feel as though they are growing their skills and knowledge to make the eLearning experience worthwhile, or else they simply won’t be engaged in the process.
- Provide Support – Baby Boomers and Generation X are not very tech savvy and thus require consistent support. You may provide a helpline for support calls or an email address for enquiries. Chat forums could also work, but they may be less likely to use this platform if they are still familiarizing themselves with the technology. Support can also be offered within the eLearning environment itself with intuitive navigation and instructions that are readily available throughout the course.
- Interactivity – The post-war generation like to immerse themselves into their learning. So create unique challenges and scenarios that allow them to take risk and explore. The older generations like to use their previous skills and knowledge, so use stories that they can relate to when creating your learning.
Don’t assume older generations are not going to be receptive to eLearning. They may not be as tech savvy as the younger generations, but they will be open to eLearning if it is correctly positioned.