Times are changing. Training is not what it used to be 15, 10 or even 5 years ago. Technological advancements and the fluctuating economy have been huge influences, just to name a couple. Another significant factor is the changing generational climate of employees in the workplace.
In 2015, Millennials (born in the early 80s to mid-90s) surpassed the largest generation, Gen X, (born early 60s to early 80s) in the labor force, representing 1 in 3 American employees.1 In the near future the next generation, Gen Z (born mid-90s to early 2010) will most likely make a similar impact in the workforce.
With all this said, if a company strives for continued success and employee loyalty, a look at the existing training should at least be a discussion. Think of it as a family recipe that has been a staple around the holiday table for decades. It still tastes great, but there may be room for improvement.
So how can you add some flavor to an existing recipe for upcoming generations?
Be Prepared to Make Changes to the Recipe
That potato salad from Aunt June’s recipe may still have that awesome mustard kick, but what about spicing it up by trying red potatoes instead of Russet potatoes?
The same goes for training. There are often training courses that have been in circulation for years or even decades, usually part of a series of courses during employee orientation. This curriculum shares similarities across many organizations including logistics, operational standards, HR policies, etc.
Many of these concepts or topics are critical to employees’ introduction to an organization, but this does not mean that refreshing the course with engagement, interactivity, and more applicability are not options.
Let Them Help Make It
It can be fun to watch a recipe unfold before your eyes. Cooking shows are popular for some reason; however, there is something about being able to actually add the ingredients yourself that makes it even more enjoyable. The same can be said for training.
Younger generations are often generalized as being self-centered and lazy. Contrary to popular belief, though, if Millennials, in particular, are actually given the opportunity to make a difference they are more likely to be loyal. Being part of training development makes them own the materials and feel some sense of empowerment2.
To achieve this, why not help employees participate in the development of the courses or content? They may not have some of the necessary instructional design experience or presentation skills, but their perspectives are vital to making sure the right information is covered in the right way for the right audience. The answers to many questions can be found within them, and they are more likely to participate and eager to learn more when they are invested.
Make Something They Will Actually Eat
Everyone at some time or another has either witnessed or experienced the picky eater who is not interested in eating anything placed in front of them, regardless of how much time was spent making it. The same goes for training.
There are certain topics that must be covered for any organization. Some material is difficult to get away from dismissing, but that does not mean those subjects need to be force-fed to the masses. Let’s face it - most training courses are mandatory, not voluntary. This means that employees often attend the course reluctantly to begin with so why not make it, at a minimum, an interesting delivery of content?
First and foremost, it is important to identify who the target audience is and then determine what they actually like. Different departments prefer different delivery. Technology teams may prefer online courses with information presented in a straightforward manner. A sales team, on the other hand, may prefer more discussion and activity-driven training giving them the opportunity to immediately apply newly learned information. It is incredibly important to determine what this looks like and what the audience is actually willing to sit at the table to “eat.”
Ask Them If They Like It!
It sounds a little obvious, but perhaps we often take someone else’s opinion for granted. Just because you like it does not mean that someone else will. Take a favorite dish, for example. Someone may like her dessert with an extra spoonful of cinnamon while the next person may not want any cinnamon at all. These questions cannot be answered, though, unless the intended audience is asked.
In training, this may come in the form of an evaluation or short survey to the participants of the course. Either way, it is imperative that the employees’ perspective is asked and documented to determine what next steps to take. Was it successful? Are there changes that need to be made? Many questions can be answered in this evaluation phase.
So where does one go from here? The main ingredients to a recipe are vital to its authentic taste but there is always room for improvement or a change to spice it up. Either way, keep the “taste tester” in mind and you are sure to have a winning recipe.
Pew Research's article, Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. labor force
The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey
Christa Thompson, Ph.D. is the Founder of Innovative Alignments, a training and development company focused on creating interactive and innovative bite-sized learning, with a millennial focus. Her educational background in organizational psychology, marketing and communications has cultivated her extensive experience in consulting and instructional design in telecom, aviation and banking industries.
TrainingPros, Inc., founded in 1997, works closely with training and development departments of large organizations to identify, attract and support leading contract specialists for focused training and development engagements. A proprietary on-boarding process led by experienced Relationship Managers helps ensure the right personnel for the job.
TrainingPros President Steve Kapaun welcomes your feedback.