Four Generation Workforce and the Instructional Challenges it Presents

All generations at Suntiva serve clients with great hearts and great minds.

This is the first time in history that there are four different generations concurrently in the workforce. The anchor years for these generations are: Silents(b.1925-1942), Boomers(b. 1943-1960), Generation X(b. 1961-1981) and Millennials (b.1982-2003). America’s current four generation workforce brings different values, needs, preferences, behaviors and experiences to the workplace. Therefore, multigenerational staff have different learning styles and preferences. Once leaders embrace the differences they may develop new approaches to training and talent management.

“They’ve been called Generation Y. They’ve been called Echo Boomers. They may go by different names, but there’s no debate about their effect on business. They are the fastest growing segment of your employee population. They’ve been trained to use their heads more than their hands to solve problems.  It will take a new set of leadership skills to understand their perspective and motivate them to succeed.”  —Donald D. Shandler, Ph.D.

Professionals charged with the responsibility of engaging, training, and educating a high-performing multigenerational workforce they must accommodate the commonalities and differences that each population exhibits. Human Capital experts are equipped to address the essential instructional design considerations when developing programs for the four generations that now work and learn together.

To succeed in this transformation, focus on the learning preferences of the three largest cohorts presently in the workforce. Boomers prefer classroom-based and career-related programs, while Generation X express enthusiasm for online programs and learning for both fun and enrichment.  Alternatively, Millennials, as digital natives, are most interested in technology-enabled learning and have little tolerance for boredom.

Managers must:

  • Recognize the unique learning preferences of the four generational cohorts now driving America’s economy, and in particular the millennials.
  • Identify inclusive learning strategies to design multigenerational learning experiences.
  • Acknowledge the importance of the millennial knowledge worker as a seminal force and centerpiece of a rapidly changing workforce.
  • Incorporate technology-mediated learning methods to meet generational learning needs.

Training professionals should:

  • Expand instructional design strategies to include generational learning preferences.
  • Encourage the application of generational learning strategies to enhance an existing or proposed learning experience.
  • Stay current on the growing body of generational research impacting workplace learning and performance.
  • Reconcile the balance of classroom-based and technology-enabled learning.

Consequently, human resources and management leaders MUST adapt to and be inclusive of multiple learning styles to upskill, engage, and motivate their multigenerational staff. As a result, organizations will be able to better attract and retain their valued employees and build a sustainable, productive workforce.

About the Author:

Stuart H. Weinstein, Ph.D. is the Practice Leader for Instructional Systems at Suntiva, LLC in Falls Church, VA.  He was a contributing author to Motivating the Millennial Knowledge Worker (Axzo Press – Crisp Fifty-Minute Books, Paperback, 257 pages, December 2009).  He has delivered 49 conference presentations, authored 68 articles and is a contributing author for four books in Instructional Development, Technology, and Evaluation. In addition to his role at Suntiva, Dr. Weinstein teaches “Principles of Training and Development” and “Corporate Distance Training” in the Instructional Systems Development graduate program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

About Suntiva:

Suntiva is a business transformation and technology company serving Federal Government agencies. We are committed to Enabling Smart Government™ by supporting government leaders with Digital, Workforce and Business Process Transformation solutions and services designed to improve performance through people, process and technology in significant, measurable and sustainable ways.

Our solutions and services are built using a multi-disciplinary lens integrating deep and specific domain expertise with information technology, governance and organizational performance, human capital and federal acquisition lifecycle knowledge. We incorporate change management and technology adoption practices throughout the project lifecycle to ensure successful outcomes for the mission and stakeholders.

Embodying great minds and great hearts, we apply our knowledge, experience and passion to collectively help government leaders realize success through more efficient operations and better service delivery. Suntiva is an appraised CMMI Level 3, small disadvantaged business, founded in 2002 and headquartered in Falls Church, VA.

Written by Stuart Weinstein, PhD.