Training the Multigenerational Workforce

There are five generations represented in today’s workforce, each with their own values and attitudes… and they all need safety training. But why should you consider each generation for your safety training?

Making sure everyone is engaged is essential because an engaged environment is a safe environment. Research shows that 70% fewer safety incidents occur in engaged workplaces.

Focus Areas

The core question is: Do generational differences matter when it comes to training? The answer is a resounding YES! Here’s why: When it comes to training and development, each generation has a different focus:

  • The Traditionalist generation (1925-46): is looking for career longevity, so this generation will say, “What skills will sustain me at this organization?”
  • The Baby Boomer generation (1946-64): is looking for personal accomplishment, so this generation is a little more focused on, “How will these skills and abilities help me enhance my career?”
  • Generation X (1965-80): is looking for new opportunities and challenges. This is a generation that wants to be thrown into new opportunities to learn, whether it’s new technology or a new process.
  • Millennials (1980-95): are looking for purpose in their work, so they tend to think, “How do the skills I’m learning through training add value and purpose to the work I’m doing?”
  • Generation Z (1996-2016): is looking for opportunities to collaborate, so it’s all about what options for collaboration are available through the training.

Each generation has its reasons for having these outlooks when you put them in context with the time period in which they grew up. Traditionalists, for example, grew up during the Great Depression and two world wars which led to a “never give up” attitude. Generation Z grew up during the Great Recession and in the era of smartphones, social networking, and with Barack Obama as President, so they tend to have a good grasp of technology and prefer working in diverse groups.

Use Common Ground

For those of us with a workforce spread across all of these generations, there’s a lot going on. It’s a challenging situation. But there is a way to make this work in a highly effective manner. While the generations do have a lot of differences, they also share a lot of common ground. All of them:

  • Have a focus on family
  • Appreciate a good work/life balance
  • Appreciate flexible work arrangements
  • Have an appreciation and recognition for a job well done
  • Have a desire for effective leadership
  • Want to have a voice and be involved in decision-making
  • Want a financial reward for a job well done, and
  • Have a sense of purpose in work

When in doubt about how to best approach each generation:

  • Use your own organization’s values as a foundation to build upon, and
  • Try to include the focus elements from each generation to drive the impact and application of your training program.

And finally, try blended training for personnel in these diverse age groups. Older, more seasoned employees can teach younger, less experienced employees hands-on training on equipment like powered industrial trucks, for example. In turn, the younger, more tech-savvy employees can train the older employees to use computer-based training (CBT) or other relevant software-based applications that may be required.