Training Technology: Engaging Generations
How would you like to receive training by playing a video game? It’s not as far out as you think. Although instructor-led training sessions are still alive and well, today’s younger workforce, composed of Millennials and Generation Z, demands more vibrant, hands-on approaches to workforce training technology.
The five types of training currently used most often are:
- Classroom or instructor-led training
- Interactive training
- Hands-on training
- Computer-based training
- E-Learning or Online-based training
Within each of type of training, there are ways to incorporate new techniques that connect with younger workers who have defined generational traits and expectations. Millennials now comprise the largest generational cohort in the workforce, and with Generation Z now just beginning to enter the workforce, that number will explode beyond the current 80 million.
It’s been said before, but Millennials and Generation Z are the first generations to grow up totally immersed in technology. They used the internet, played video games, and made social media a regular part of their daily life. Technology has given them instant access to communication, answers, and instilled a sense of interaction when using their devices.
What new training technologies work best for these generations of workers? Some trainers are using audience response technology, a software that can embed questions into presentations and allow learners to submit answers via mobile devices. The advantages are increased participation in an interactive way and the ability to gauge participant progress in real time.
Another use of technology is gamification, a way to use gaming elements while introducing new learning. Gamification uses real-life scenarios in a controlled environment and uses challenges, rewards, and analytics to keep learners interested and participating. Playing games to learn new skills motivates learners and engages them in the material to promote changes.
Sometimes gaining real-life experience can be dangerous or problematic. One way to counter this is to use virtual reality training. Medical schools, retailers, and law enforcement use virtual reality to create real-life scenarios and evaluate the responses of the learners. Walmart, for example, uses virtual reality to recreate the Black Friday experience and the types of situations new hires might encounter.
Cross-training is when employees learn one another’s jobs. Managers like the flexibility to get work accomplished, and employees can learn new skills and not get burned out staying in one position too long. As the younger generation of workers is used to constant change and challenge, their stay in one job is often no more than two years. Cross-training keeps employees interested and engaged and may help in retaining them.
Microlearning is using smaller training sessions employees can use flexibly. By using interactive or immersive technologies, learners can learn real-life skills and be able to apply them immediately. It can give feedback in real-time so employees understand where they may need skill improvement. Visuals and infographics work well for younger workers to clarify complex ideas.
Podcasts using in-house subject matter experts or experts outside of your organization also work well. Keep the podcasts to five minutes or less. You can encourage participants to write about what they learned and receive feedback from their peers.
Delivering training is almost as important as the content. Mobile phones are the preferred method of learning for younger workforce members. Training should be accessible to anyone at any time. Make sure if you use technology to deliver your training, it is compatible with mobile phones and can be accessed 24/7 from any location. Don’t forget to make it easy to use.
Younger workers are used to expressing their opinions. Give them a platform to continue their training by utilizing forums, group discussions, and Q&A sessions to cement the training and tweak the presentations to make them more effective and usable.
Millennials and Generation Z want more than just a good job and a paycheck from their work. They want to be challenged, learn, and grow by using the technology they have been exposed to all their lives. New training techniques should be incorporated into training programs now as the workforce is rapidly changing. Stay flexible, keep learning relevant and short, and always seek input from your trainees as you design your new training programs.