The American workplace has always comprised multiple generations. Today’s workforce is no exception, especially as economic pressures force many people to retire later in life. It’s now common to see companies with up to five very different generations working side-by-side.
Just as Traditionalists and Baby Boomers adapted their structured, linear work environments to meet the flexible, collaborative demands of Generation X, a new generation is forcing business leaders to once again modify work styles to effectively engage employees and increase productivity.
Digital connection + collaboration = Generation C
Enter Generation C, the collective name given to Generations Y and Z, whose needs for digital connection and collaboration will disrupt the workforce in ways no other generation has before.
Accounting for more than 75 percent of the workforce over the next decade, Gen C is first and foremost concerned with their personal learning and development, and as they begin to enter the workforce in droves, this is where businesses should start focusing now to recruit and retain top talent.
Compared to their “show me the money” predecessors, Gen C values cutting edge training and continued learning opportunities over larger paychecks because they see this as a way to “rise up” through organizations more quickly, which is something that greatly motivates their productivity and engagement.
Not only is what they learn important to their future success and engagement, equally important is how they learn.
As a generation of digital natives and the largest segment of smartphone users, Gen C has naturally adapted technology to suit what is most useful or convenient for them, including learning. They have entered the workplace with new needs and new expectations, but with less than 45% of Fortune 500 companies using eLearning technologies to train their employees Gen C’s demands have not been satisfied.
Meeting the demands of this generation leaves business leaders asking, “How can we effectively engage and train this new generation while still accommodating older employees?” The solution to meeting cross-generational demands is flipped training, a model that allows employees to review training materials on their own time—often through online learning programs—and use the scheduled in-person training sessions as a time to apply what they’ve learned or seek advice from peers.
Flipped learning is transforming traditional learning outcomes, making especially significant strides in the educational space, where over 75 percent of teachers in some places have flipped a lesson with 71 percent of those teachers stating they saw improved grades from students. By applying some of the basic concepts of the flipped classroom, corporate training leaders can transform their current training programs into an engaging, flexible, and effective learning experience for employees.
When applied to a business setting, the flipped model is fairly self-led with mentor/trainer intervention along the way, and requires each generation to contribute knowledge in some way. The idea is to create a mobile asynchronous learning environment that is convenient to the mobile-first, tech savvy generations of today’s workforce, and also provides resources, and post-training peer and mentor interaction to encourage employees to practice by doing and applying what they’ve learned in a real situation.
Here are ideas on how to flip your training model and steer clear of traditional learning methods that have previously stifled self-paced convenience and learning variety among employees, and eliminated consistency in delivering training to a distributed workforce.
Make it experiential
In addition to providing employees access to live training lectures, it’s also important to give them the time needed to practice what they’ve learned in a way that best suits their needs.
Particularly for leadership education but also for other domains, both the active and the experiential learning models of learning allow Gen C to decide how to achieve a desired result or modify their behavior to improve effectiveness of a learned skill.
As outlined by Jane Hart, experiential learning fulfills Gen C’s need to “learn by discovery rather than being told.” This generation prefers training that’s interactive, which gives them the freedom to explore and draw their own conclusions about the content being learned. Including interactive elements into training programs, like simulations, games, shadowing peers, and role playing caters to this need by enabling them to learn by “being there.”
Another way to give Gen C access to more hands-on learning is by allowing young employees to use the technology they like best to essentially train themselves and ask questions later when doing their jobs. By allowing employees to learn and practice the material on their own schedule and in their own way, you turn their actual training time into a collaborative experience where they can use peers as resources. Instead of spending an hour a day taking notes and listening to a lecture, employees can use that hour for a lively peer or mentorship session that caters to Gen C’s need for social learning.
Additionally, for companies using video classrooms to support lab-work training, it’s important to find a platform that gives trainers the ability to “drop in” while employees are working.
Keep it mobile
According to a recent study, 100 percent of employees said they would complete more training in a mobile format and 80 percent of learning and development professionals believe mobile learning increases employee engagement. With those two statistics in mind, corporate training leaders must restructure workforce education programs to include resources that are easily accessible on any mobile device, such as live video-training sessions and on-demand tutorials.
Mobile learning allows for training to occur over a longer period of time as opposed to the “sit down once and learn” model that traditional training programs deploy. Moreover, Gen C is used to “real-time” interaction, whether it’s through social media or texting. Mobile learning means employees don’t have to wait for anyone or anything to further their learning.
Additionally, being on-the-go and always digitally connected, this generation prefers “quick learning,” which makes eLearning appealing because content that is typically built for mobile-device consumption is formatted in concise, bite-sized chunks rather than long-form content.
Empower peer-to-peer learning communities
Gen C has grown up in a world where everything they do is social in some way, shape, or form, and corporate training for this generation should be no different. Organizations should leverage think-tank-like employee resource groups (ERGs) to keep their workforce engaged in the development of themselves and their peers. ERGs are groups of people within an organization who share similar characteristics and utilize each other for career development.
As mentioned above, flipped training requires students to attempt to learn new material on their own and then bring their questions and struggles to the teacher. ERGs will give employees another resource to leverage before they have to go to the teacher and use allotted training time for lessons that could have been taught to them by their peers.
Engage and retain
As Gen C continues trickling into the workforce and assumes more leadership roles, organizations will need to accommodate workplace learning efforts to engage and retain this generation. By flipping training programs, companies can ensure their youthful workforce is not only developing quickly and efficiently the way Gen C wants to, but also create the collaborative culture today’s organizations need to be successful.