CIOs rolling out new communications technology face a distinctive challenge. With four generations in the workplace today – Veterans (born before 1946), Baby Boomers (born 1946 – 1964), Generation X (born 1965 – 1980) and Millennials (born after 1981) – they must not only determine the best solution to meet the needs of their business, but also their users’ generational differences. After all, each of these groups started from a different point on the technology timeline, which means they bring diverse perspectives to the workplace.
And it’s not just their approach to technology that varies. They have unique training preferences, as well. For example, Gen X and Millennials are more independent learners and prefer computer-based or Internet training, according to CIPD’s Tapping into Talent Report. And while it may be true that Veterans and Baby Boomers are retiring from the workforce on an increasing basis, many in those age groups are putting off retirement. So it’s important to account for these two groups of aging workers and understand that they typically prefer classroom-style instruction.
Thus, to ensure a high adoption rate, business leaders should be careful to consider each generation’s unique approach to technology, communications and training. Ideally, your rollout plan should not only encompass all learning styles, but also help reluctant technology users embrace new models of communications.
Here’s what to consider before rolling out any new communications technology.
Offer a Mix of Learning Methods
While people learn differently regardless of age, the differences between generations are sharp. Millennials, who grew up with the Internet, are natural users of technology and gravitate to tech-based education. That makes them perfect candidates for self-directed learning, but they also highly value personal feedback. For this generation, a mix of one-to-one, team-based and online learning works well. Their slightly older counterparts, Generation X, share many of these preferences, but would rather work independently than in teams.
By contrast, Baby Boomers and Veterans grew up in the traditional classroom, so scheduled group workshops are likely to work best for them.
The key takeaway? When rolling out your communications technology, offer a blend of learning methods, says Training Magazine.
Embrace Reverse Mentoring
Traditionally, more experienced employees have mentored newcomers, helping them make the transition into the workplace by sharing their expertise on everything from organizational processes to leadership skills. Now, however, younger generations have adept technical skills their more senior colleagues need.
Because technology is second nature to them and they understand the nuances of the digital era, Millennials can be tapped to help Gen Xers and Baby Boomers learn how to integrate new forms of communications, including web chat, video conferencing and social media into their workday. Reverse mentoring can be a particularly effective strategy to employ during the rollout of a new communications technology.
Establish a Blended Communications Program
Keep in mind that habits don’t change overnight. With several generations in the workforce, you can’t assume everyone will embrace new communications tools quickly. Instead, plan to deliver news, updates and training programs using a variety of channels. Short updates via web chat will grab the attention of your Millennials, while instructions sent by email will help your Baby Boomers embrace change more quickly.
As long as several generations occupy your workforce, you’ll need to adapt your rollout and training programs to a range of communications styles and training needs. Still, it’s important to remember that the goal of your rollout plan is to increase adoption across the enterprise. While the above steps consider generational differences, remember the ultimate goal is to help all generations embrace and use the same communications tools.
“Regardless of age or generation, executive leadership has to make sure that the emphasis is on what workers are producing and how everyone can contribute to the success of the organization,” says Dan Schawbel, partner and research director at Future Workplace and New York Times bestselling author of Promote Yourself. “Creating diverse working groups that are based on a goal, or around a project or an outcome and set clear expectations of what needs to get done and when, but let each figure out how to navigate their differences and strengths to get to the ‘how.’”
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