Training Generation Y is a challenge for Generation X trainers. Ross Wigham reports.
Every generation has its quirks and some conflict with its predecessors. And, when it comes to training, the latest generation prefer it to be as individualistic as possible. Generation Y’ers have different ideas about what they want from employers, careers and development.
Coaching and mentoring
Gen Y is not just one big, homogonous group, but it is much more demanding than Generation X as a unit, according to Sue Honore, learning consultant at Ashridge business school.
“They expect employers to help them grow. Coaching and mentoring is a big part of this and they seem to respond positively to it,” she says.
Honore has recently started a major research project into what makes this generation tick and to try and uncover exactly how employers will need to adapt training and development to suit them.
She has already made a few interesting observations.
“I think we will probably start to move away from the idea of fixed formal training and move more towards flexible coaching and mentoring systems with Gen Y.”
The project will take an in-depth look at how Generation Y responds to development and what employers should be doing to adapt to the shifting demographics in the workplace as numbers increase.
“We want to get to the heart of what they want from training and expose any myths about what they need from employers. The findings will be important in how we design training and development in future,” Honore says.
Getting the right development in place could be of more significance for employers, with the next generation far more demanding and expectant when it comes to training.
Carl Gilliard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), says that getting the right development in place is even more important with many citing this as a major draw when choosing a career.
“Many final year students are saying that development is increasingly important when choosing a prospective employer. This is an interesting area and something that recruiters, employers and training providers are starting to look at closely,” he says.
Gilliard has also noticed some fundamental shifts in how Gen Y’ers view training and development.
“I think they see learning as a personal investment in their career and they want a pay off from it. Younger people are starting to look at learning in a different way than employers are probably used to.
“They respect honest and genuine feedback and are more used to mentoring. I think they are also looking for more flexibility in how they access development,” he says.
Despite this, Gilliard thinks that employers can adapt to the needs of Gen Y and use better training systems to their advantage.
“These are not challenges that are impossible to meet, but employers need to respect that Generation Y wants and needs different things.”
Gerry Griffin, founding director and chief executive of training firm Skill-pill, specialises in mobile phone learning and says that technology plays a key role in training Gen Y employees.
Skills gaps remain
Younger employees are generally more tech savvy than previous generations, but they also have significant skills gaps that employers need to develop, Griffin says.
“As a group they have lower attention spans and are good at multi tasking, but are not necessarily great finishers,” he says.
However, employers also need to make serious changes to get the best from this generation by looking closely at mobile learning, new technology, learning communities and more flexibility.
“Learning will have to re-invent itself, in much the same way that the music industry has had to reinvent itself in the digital age. All the systems and processes that HR directors use need to be assessed with regard to flexibility and user-focus.
“Organisations need to address the Gen Y world view which is more community based. Training needs to break out of its prison because until now it has been location-specific with even e-learning tied to the desktop,” he says.
Another study by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) identified career development as the most important factor in attracting Gen Y managers and emphasised the value of learning new skills.
The survey found that Generation Y’ers believe their future success depends on skills development and the majority (74%) suggested they would be attracted to employers offering good training, compared to just 21% for salary.
Jo Causon, director of corporate affairs at CMI, says: “Overall there is a strong desire to develop at work and enjoy their job, with inability to progress a strong negative for them. Yet, at the same time, busy individuals working long hours can quickly become demotivated and leave. In an era where skills are at a premium, organisations need to be aware of this and act before it becomes reality.”