Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Multigenerational Training: Bridging the Gap Between Generations in the Workforce

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Multigenerational Training Bridging the Gap Between Generations in the Workforce

Submitted to

Lyle Johnson

Director of Training/Human Resource

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Shelter Insurance

Prepared by

Management Undergraduate Student

University of Missouri-Columbia

Columbia, MO 6501

May 7, 00


We are currently in a time period where there are as many as four different generations of workers in the work force. These different generations bring different values and work ethics to the job every day and often times with generation gaps there are problems between workers of different ages. These problems can cost your company valuable time and money. Shelter Insurance currently is experiencing these same problems. Due to this it is important to develop a training program that would bring together the different ages so they could work together collaboratively to increase the bottom line. This will be achieved through research on companies currently implementing such a program. It is vital in this time and age to bring together all generations in the work place, for the benefit of the company and the workers. This project is to be completed on May 8, 00.


With an ever-changing economy and world, businesses everywhere are searching for new techniques and strategies to improve their overall bottom line. With so many different strategies available many are often over looked. Like many successful companies, Shelter Insurance has over looked the problem of “generational differences” as one of the fundamental reasons American companies are experiencing hiring challenges, skyrocketing turnover rates, increasing communication problems, and plummeting morale. The generation gaps in the workplace today are wider than ever, with Americans living longer and working longer. Currently there are four different generations in the workforce; there are the Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials. The major problem with four generations in the workforce is that each generation brings its own set of values, beliefs, life experiences, and attitudes to the work place, and due to the long economic expansion of the 10s created a situation of almost full employment. Because of this many younger workers were promoted more rapidly and were offered more financial and growth opportunities. In turn came culture clash and a resentment backlash as different generations disagreed around issues of fairness and opportunity, which in turn causes the bottom line to decrease. This is an extremely important concept to companies such as Shelter Insurance. Shelter is a well-established company, promotes team activity, values its employees and customers, and is in a highly competitive market.


The four generations of trainees in the workplace cover nearly 80 birthyears from 1 through 1 They are the Traditionalists, 1-4; the Baby Boomers, 14-60; the Generation Xers, 160-80; and the Millennials, born after 180.

• The Traditionalists (1-14) came of age before and during the Great Depression and World War Two. They are the classic employees and are an irreplaceable source of tradition and wisdom, practical shrewdness.

• The Baby Boomers (14-160), the post-war babies, are graying, and theyd really rather not be seen as the problem in the workplace, though they frequently are. After all, theyve been defining everyone else as the problem since Dont trust anyone over 0. They invented Thank God, its Monday! and the 60-hour work week. Boomers are passionately concerned about participation and spirit in the workplace, about bringing heart and humanity to the office, and about creating a fair and level playing field for all.

• The Xers (160-180) grew up in the post-60s era of Watergate, lathchkey kids, and energy crisis. Their need for feedback and flexibility, coupled with their hatred of close supervision, is but one of the many conundrums they present employers. At the same time, they are personally adept and comfortable with change, because, they changed cities, homes and parents all their lives. They are, indeed, the new change masters. And they are much more inclined to keep their own guidance than are their Boomer predecessors. Xers are very clear about the meaning of the word balance in their lives Work is work. And they work to live, not live to work.

• The Millennials (born 180 to now), who may be the smartest, cleverest, most-wanted small humans to have walked the face of the planet. Their moms and dads see themselves as devoted parents sacrificing to bring this new generation to adulthood. Think soccer moms and little-league dads. Theyre an optimistic bunch who express doubt over the wisdom of traditional racial and sexual categorizing, and they have Internet pen pals in Asia who they can, and do, contact at any hour of the day or night.


The Traditionalists

Their preferred learning environment is stable, orderly, consistent, and risk-free. The Traditionalilists tend to be conformers; they appreciate consistency, logic and discipline; and they are past-oriented. This generation, more than any other, appreciates a traditional training room, set classroom-style. Establish the ground rules for your session early, and stick to them. They respond best to trainers with a conservative style, who serve and support their learning needs. Veterans are respectful of authority and will likely view, their trainer, as such. They are the least likely of all participants to take you on face-to-face if they disagree. As a result, you may not know you didnt have buy in until you receive your end-of-session evaluation forms. Approach your older participants, respectfully, possibly on a break, to find out what they think about the course precepts. Avoid calling on your oldest participants or doing anything which might make them feel theyre being put on the spot in front of their peers and younger colleagues. They are motivated to learn when the trainer makes connections to the overall good of the company, its mission, long-term objectives, and history. Training activities that are most effective with this generation are the straightforward presentation of information, and opportunities to build skills privately. When the trainer is in front of the room, this generation tends to turn off to examples and stories that are too personal; they prefer more left-brained, logical material. And watch your language, poor grammar or profanity will get between your message and recipients of this generation. Training materials that suit them are readings like Readers Digest and Executive Book Summaries, two formats very popular with older Americans. Avoid - and even 10-point type, small type tests the vision of not only the Traditionalists but their fiftysomething Boomer colleagues as well!

The Boomers

Baby Boomers comprise the biggest chunk of todays workforce with nearly 76 million workers. Their need to prove their worthiness has created a work ethic that can be called “dedicated”, even “driven.” They often have good people skills and prefer work environments where there is a lot of room for relationship. Boomers tend to be optimistic; they are attracted to the concept of team; and they are fascinated by the role of “spirit” in their lives, even their professional lives.

Their preferred learning environment is interactive and non-authoritarian. They respond well to the traditional classroom as long as there are opportunities for interaction, networking, and teamwork. They also like to learn from books, the Boomers have been the major market for self-help books for the last two decades, and they like audiotapes they can learn from on their morning and afternoon commutes. One caution Boomers have a tendency to know things intellectually and not be aware that theyve not translated knowledge into skills. Skill practice is crucial for Boomers, although its challenging to find skill-building activities they actually like and will participate in. They respond best to trainers who come across “as equals.” Lots of Boomers have authority issues they didnt like the military-style directions they sometimes received in childhood, and they still resent shows of power so friendly, collegial trainers who give personal examples and share their own vulnerability play well to them. They are motivated to learn if they believe the knowledge and skills they are acquiring will give them new ways to be a star on the job. Training activities that are most effective with Boomers are interactive Icebreakers, team activities, discussion, and even self-reflection. But, for some reason, most Boomers cringe at the very thought of role play. Steer clear of it when designing training that will be delivered primarily to Boomers. Training materials that suit them are organized and scannable with accessible information and details. The Internet is actually organized in perfect Boomer style you can find an overview of information in a friendly, scannable format; then, if interested, you can click on a topic to access more detailed information. Business Week and USA Today are both good examples of the format were referring to -- and each is very popular with this generation.

The Xers

Generation Xers are beginning to find themselves working side-by-side with the Boomers who have complained so vocally about them for the past dozen years. But theyve got a survivor mentality, and theyre not intimidated by older colleagues. Gen Xers tend to be self-reliant, skeptical and informal; they are seeking work/life balance; they are technologically savvy; and they believe their resume is their ticket to career security. Their preferred learning environment is not face-to-face instruction. Theyre not nearly as attracted to classroom interaction as the generations before them, and they have a non-traditional orientation to time and space. They dont think much of work hours, believing, instead, that as long as the job gets done, its not so important where or when. They dont like “line of sight” managing and may view a trainer who requires them to show up for days on end at precisely the same time each morning as a jailer. If theres no other way, the trainer needs to explain the rationale for timeliness and get their buy-in contractually early on. If the training is targeted primarily at Xers, though, consider other formats CD-ROM, videos and EPSS programs that answer employees questions as they work. They respond best to trainers who are competent. The trainer who spends lots of time trying to establish rapport with Gen X learners by being warm and friendly will have wasted that time. Instead, get right into the material and demonstrate your expertise. They are motivated to learn when its fun this generation puts fun right near the top of their list of work priorities. These are highly motivated learners many think of themselves as free agents, and they know that better knowledge and skills will increase their marketability. Training activities that are most effective with Gen Xers give them an opportunity to sample and learn by doing. Trainers weve surveyed have told us they cant put enough role-play into training programs geared to Xers. They want to get involved with what theyre learning, experiment with it, and get feedback. They arent as worried as older generations about putting their ego on the line theyll jump in and try something even at the cost of looking less than perfect in front of others. Training materials that suit them have fewer words than those designed with Boomers in mind. Statistically Xers dont read as much as their older colleagues (or younger ones, either, as it turns out) they like white space, headlines, subheads, quotes, graphics, and lists they can scan through quickly. They are attracted to printed pages that are multi-focussed, that supply the reader with lots of visual stimulation. Take a look at magazines like Spin and Fast Company to see examples.


Nexters are just taking their first jobs, and some believe they will influence the 1st-century workplace every bit as much, and probably more, than the Boomers did the 0th. The size of their group, the education system that developed them, their technological sophistication, positive expectations, and apparent drive for collective action just might prove a formula for greatness. This new wave of workers is both optimistic about the future and realistic about the present. They combine the teamwork ethic of the Boomers with the can-do attitude of the Traditionalists and the technological savvy of the Xers. Their preferred learning environment combines teamwork and technology. In a training room with lots of Millennials, give everyone a task. When a few have completed it, encourage them to walk around the room and help others theyre used to working this way in school. They respond best to trainers who create respect. They subscribe to a stricter moral code, care about manners, and believe in civic action. These new workers will need more supervision and structure than their Xer predecessors They are motivated to learn skills and information that will help make their working lives less stressful and that will help them earn money. In foodservice and retail, where they primarily work today, there is evidence they are easily intimidated by difficult customers. Training that teaches them skills for overcoming objections and dealing with difficult people will make their everyday work lives easier. And there is a higher priority on making money with this generation than any before, so tie course objectives into economic improvement. Training activities that are most effective incorporate elements of entertainment. This is the busiest generation of Americans yet they are used to activities and will become bored with training that isnt highly active and interactive. These young workers were raised on the Learning Channel. Take the best ideas from Dave & Busters and Chuck E. Cheese and incorporate them into your design. In the training room, limit stand-up talking as much as you can; instead, get creative with music, art and games. Training materials that suit them are lively and varied. Printed materials should have the same multi-focus that materials targeted at Xers have with one exception Millennials are readers.

Annotated Bibliography

Lancaster, Lynne, and Stillman, David. 00. When Generations Collide.

New York HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

This is an excellent book that is written by professionals in the field of training. They confront the questions of different generations. Who are the generations and why do they collide? In doing so they look at the widening generation gap at work, including insight on traditionalists, baby boomers, generation Xers, and millenials. Also included in this work relevant to the proposal are ways of recruiting the generations, and retaining and managing the generations. This is a useful source for information in creating a multigenerational training program.

Rosener, Judy, and Loden, Marilyn. 11. Workforce America managing employee

diversity as a vital resource. Illinois Business One Irwin

This book is a good source for general problems in diversity including things such as race and gender. It provides ways to raise awareness, manage key issues and diversity and organization change. For the proposal it was only slightly helpful including a small section on the managing of different generations in the workplace. It gave well-cited information and ways to recognize and treat diversity between ages.

Carr-Ruffino, Norma. 1. Diversity Success Strategies.

Boston Butterworth Heinemann Publishers Inc.

This book gives a solid twenty pages worth of information on success strategies for bridging the generation gap. Key information that is included is the myths and realities of different generations in the workplace, past and present profiles, and preventing skills obsolescence. All of this information is relevant in creating an effective training program.

Fernandez, John P. 11. Managing a Diverse Workforce Regaining the Competitive

Edge. Toronto Lexington Books

This book just touches on the subject of age discrimination but gives good data on the different ages in the workplace. By providing a lot of statistical data this book became a credited source for the information in the proposal. Fernandez also gives actual insight of people’s thoughts on age discrimination in the workplace. Overall a lot of information packed in but not much on actual training techniques.

Jamieson, David, and O’Mara, Julie. 11. Managing Workforce 000 Gaining the

Diversity Advantage. San Francisco Jossey-Bass Publishers

This book gives good insight on the rising problem of age discrimination along with a general breakdown of the different generations in the workplace. After a brief over view the rest of the book is dedicated to ways that companies can overcome these problems. This book allows you to create a training program to fit the size of the company and the severity of the problem. It is useful for anyone interested in training on diversity.

Dennis, Alicia. 00. Add ‘multigenerational’ to the workplace mix. Austin Business

Journal. October 11, 00 edition

This is a great article that gives hands on perspective on multigenerational training. It gives breakdowns of each generation, what motivates them, and how to deal with each. Also included is feedback from employees after the training, what to look for when training and the overall expected outcome to achieve after training.

Krotz, Joanna L. 00. Why can’t boomers and Gen X just get along? Marketing

Intelligence. (April/May) 46-4

This article is great for any manager with different generations of workers. Joanna actually cites the earlier book “When Generations Collide” along with offering her own perspective on things. She talks about such subjects as why generation’s perspectives differ, why bother to bridge the gap, and how you build bonds. This is an overall pretty comprehensive article containing the problem and ways of solving it. She also provides great training techniques for managers.

Elleman, Judy. 00. Resolving Multigenerational “Clash Points” The Competitive

Edge Newsletter (November) Issue Vol. 1 pg. 1

This article is unique because it is from an actual business’ newsletter. The author provides the different aspects that molded each generation and why they think the way they do. She also provides useful information on training techniques and ways to provide a multigenerational savvy meeting.

Five tips for Multigenerational Inclusion 00. (Retrieved April 11, 00)


This site is a great start for any training program dealing with generation gaps. It is simplified and makes the problem very clear. This site gives five different strategies to make your workplace a more suitable place for different generations to work in. These five strategies can be implemented by any group and should be looked at by top management.

Rock, Michael E. The Wounded Healer, Generation gaps in the new workplace


This is an e-zine that brings together the problem of different generations working together and invites a surprisingly different solution to the problem. Along with different charts, different authors on the subject of generation differences gave many different views.

McLean, Gwen. Turn Your Sales Managers into Generation-Conscious Coaches


This is an article that deals with training sales managers to become generation conscious. She parallels the generations to different types of sports teams and gives great insight on training managers to deal effectively with different generations. This article gives a lot of different ideas to bridge the gap of the generations.

Zemke, Ron, Raines, Claire, and Filipczack, Bob. Generation Gaps in the Company



This is a very thorough article that contains breakdowns of each generation. Then gives the best ways to motivate each generation, which activities are best suited for each generation, and the training materials that best suit each generation. To bring it all together all the generations are combined and six essentials are given to provide a workplace that is suited to all generations. This site is the most complete in information and training ideas.

Johnson, Lyle Interview conducted via e-mail by author, (April 0, 00)

This interview was conducted to see what type of training was offered by Shelter in the area of generation gaps. Insight was gained into the company and its training procedures allowing for a focused proposal for the specific training program. Lyle is the head of training for Shelter.

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