How to train & train well using generational differences

Think about different professions: doctors, engineers, general contractors, etc. They are required by law to take a certain amount of training, known as continuing education units (CEU), professional development hours (PDH) or continuing education credits (CEC).

Doctors need 40 hours annually to keep their board certification. Engineers need 18 hours of CEC every two years to renew their licenses. General contractors need 14 hours of CEC per year. Why wouldn’t you require the same of employees?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2015 millennials will represent the majority of the workforce, and by 2030, this hyperconnected, tech-savvy generation will make up 75% of the workforce. This group was brought up with technology in their hands but are often reported as lacking the soft skills and people skills to thrive in corporate America. Plus, baby boomers are retiring.



In 2016, the leading edge of this great boom of people turned 70. They are a huge resource with a wealth of information that needs to be passed on to the next generation of leaders.

Seventy-one percent of Fortune 100 companies have a mentor-protégé program. Is that just a coincidence? Of course not.

Consider using your company’s baby boomers to mentor your millennials and Gen Xers. Establish a formal program, but allow the informal relationships to develop, too. For a chance at true success, every generation needs to continue to develop the next.

So, where do you begin? The following are eight guiding steps to initiate a training and development program.

1. Determine Needs


If programs are going to be effective, they must meet the needs of participants. There are many ways to determine these needs, but some of the most common include:

  • Start with where you are now. Have human resources (HR) find out what degrees and training certificates your employees hold and what courses they have taken. Set the bar from there.
  • Ask participants what they believe to be their educational needs.
  • Ask management what they believe to be the educational needs of their employees.
  • Ask others familiar with the job tasks, including subordinates, peers and customers, what they perceive to be the training needs of employees.
  • Test participants to determine the areas in which they are lacking knowledge and skill.
  • Analyze performance appraisal forms, which often reflect deficiencies in ability and understanding.

2. Set Objectives

It is a must to set goals and metrics—what is measured is monitored. So, how many people will you train? How many training sessions will you have? What results are you trying to accomplish? These results can be stated in terms, such as production, quality, turnover, absenteeism, morale, sales, profits and return on investment.

3. Determine Content

Trainers need to ask themselves which topics would meet the company’s newly defined needs and accomplish the objectives. Then, limit training sessions to 1 hour. An easy way to do this is to schedule a lunch-and-learn once a week, which accomplishes 52 hours of training in just 1 year.


4. Select Participants

All levels of management can benefit from training programs. Obviously, some levels can benefit more than others. At least some basic programs should be compulsory for first-level supervisors, if not also for others.

If a program is voluntary, many who need the training may not sign up, either because they feel they don’t need it or don’t want to admit they need it.

Those who are already good supervisors and have little need for the program can still benefit from it, as they can help train the others. This assumes, of course, that the program includes participatory activities on the part of attendees. To supplement the compulsory programs, other courses can be offered on a voluntary basis. Remember to include any training required by local, state and/or federal training regulations.

5. Set a Schedule


The best schedule takes three things into consideration: the trainees, their bosses and the best conditions for learning. Many times, training professionals consider only their own preferences and schedules. An important scheduling decision is whether to offer the program on a concentrated basis—as a solid week of training, for example—or to spread it out over weeks or months.

One good schedule, besides the 1-hour weekly lunch-and-learns, is to offer a 3-hour session once a month. Three hours leave you time for participation, as well as for the use of videos and other aids.

The schedule should be set and communicated well in advance, and the program date and time should be established to meet the needs and desires of both the trainees and their bosses.

6. Select Facilities

Facilities should be both comfortable and convenient. Avoid rooms that are too small or that have uncomfortable furniture, noise or other distractions, inconvenience, long distances between training rooms, uncomfortable temperatures, etc.

7. Select Instructors

Instructor qualifications should include extensive knowledge of the subject being taught, a desire to teach, the ability to communicate and present, and skill at getting people to participate. They should also be learner-oriented, or have a strong desire to meet learner needs.

Budgets may limit the possibilities. For example, some organizations limit the selection to present employees, including the training director, the HR manager, and line and staff managers. In this case, there is no money to outsource, so subject content needs to be tailored to the available instructors, or the instructors will require special training before teaching. If budgets allow and internal expertise is not available, outside instructors can be hired.

The selection of these instructors also requires care. In order to be sure that a potential instructor will be effective, the best approach is to observe their performance in a similar situation.

The next best approach is to rely on the recommendations of other training professionals who have already worked with the individual. Avoid interviewing potential instructors and then making a decision based on your impressions alone.

8. Coordinate the Program

Sometimes, the instructor coordinates and teaches. For those who coordinate and do not teach, there are two opposite approaches to the position of coordinator.

Some instructors must introduce themselves, find their own way to the lunchroom, tell participants where to go for breaks, conclude the program, and even ask participants to complete reaction sheets at the end.

On the flip side, some coordinators drive the instructor between training and the airport. They also work to ensure the instructors have ample setup time before the meeting, introduce instructors to others team members, handle breaks, conclude the session, and even stay for the entire program, helping with handouts.