Successful employee development across the generations can be summed up in one word: Customization. Openness to tailoring employee experience gives leadership the leverage it needs to effectively develop employees of all generations.
Offer mentoring programs that are toggled to training programs. Break down stereotypes by organizing mentors by strengths and mentees by weakness as they relate to the current training initiative. For example, if employees are being trained in new technology, many of the mentors may be in Generation X or the Millennial Group. If the training focuses on processes or systems within the organization, boomers or traditionalists may be better qualified to be mentors.
Keep them engaged! A disengaged worker can often cost more than an open position in a company, so maintaining an employee development program, even in difficult times is better for the bottom line than cutting out all employee development activities, and running the company on a staff of disgruntled workers. Avoid this by providing regular educational and training opportunities as well as career advice. Each generation tends toward different motivators. Find what they are and address them directly.
Open up the office. Recognize that a (real or perceived) rigid management structure is de-motivating for Millennials. They prefer open plans that allow them to collaborate with colleagues, share information and feel that they are directly contributing to results.
Create recognition programs. Accommodate motivators of each generation by providing the recognition that each one seeks. Boomers and Traditionalists seek respect and roles of authority. Members of Generation X want to have their work/life balance supported, through flexible schedules and telecommuting. Millennials appreciate an unregulated work environment, coaching and frequent positive feedback.
Focus on the meaning and purpose of the work. Don’t let a day go by without focusing again on the meaning of the work everyone is being asked to do. This cuts through generational (and other) differences and reminds employees of why they are here.
Leverage unique skills. Maximizewhateach member brings to the table. Ask team members to reply to statements such as, “Here’s what I have to offer the team for this project, “or “Here is the kind of support I’d like to receive.” These kinds of statements help team members focus on their own skills and entreat their colleagues to do the same.
Talk about appropriate communication methods. As a group, discuss communication expectations. Reconsider the usefulness of email. Outline when it is more appropriate to communicate in person or on the phone. This will help Generation X or Millennials better define situation-appropriate technology and communication issues. For example, conflict should never be resolved via email, and there are instances in which the telephone should only be used to make arrangements for face-to-face communication.
Limit meetings. Consider how much each of your employees’ time actually costs. If you have called a meeting, are you using that time wisely by sitting together, taking turns listening to weekly updates and activities? All employees will thank you for prudence in meeting schedules.
Set a high bar for professionalism. While some generations may be less informed in their professionalism, others also may be out of practice, and may have been letting professional behaviors slide. Clearly communicate the expectation of highly professional behavior and many workplace issues will melt away.
How to Maximize Learning across the Generations
Recent research has confirmed that the actual learning event represents only part of the learning experience. A University of Phoenix study showed a strong trend toward informal learning. As much as 50% of learning occurred as a follow-up to the training event. This is corroborates the importance of using reinforcement tools in the work environment, such as email reminders and newsletters; twitter feeds, targeted blog articles, and personal follow-up via telephone, or small group refresher sessions.
Help top performers develop their career and deliver impactful employee development plans that address the needs of a multigenerational workforce. Now is the time for industry leaders to take advantage of the dynamic situation that many companies overlook. Successful companies are offering the kinds of far reaching programs that are designed to increase overall professional competence and effectiveness, take into account the learning styles of each generation and utilize innovative tools to reinforce learning, before competitors do.
EDSI has been in the business of employee development for over 20 years.