Get Off My Lawn, Millennials! An Infographic for Training Different Generations in the Workplace

By now you’ve probably seen some sort of infographic or article or attended a webinar or training session on characteristics of different generations in the workplace.

I’ve attempted to put together an infographic (below) that details how learning and development professionals can approach instructional design and facilitation for learners from a variety of age groups.

Infographic_Generations_Training

There’s only one tiny problem with this infographic. It may be entertaining click bait, but it’s not based upon any research.

I suppose that’s more than a tiny problem. It’s a big problem. Not just with my infographic, but with all infographics and articles and training sessions involving wisdom and insights on working with various generations.

Yes, there will be natural differences across generations. How many of those differences are legitimate traits that can be broadly applied across millions of workers in various age groups? And how many of those differences are the workplace equivalent of a grumpy neighbor shouting “Hey kids, get off my lawn!”?

What happens if we were to replace the statement “Millennials generally…” with “Women generally…” or “Black people generally…”?

Will millennials who are just entering the workforce need professional development around what it means to act professionally? Probably. Just like Gen Xers needed similar development, and Baby Boomers before them.

Will Gen Xers need executive development opportunities? Yep, just like most professionals entering the heyday of mid-career opportunities. At the same time, I work alongside several millennials who are already in senior management and executive positions. Far from being whiny or entitled, they are effective, no-nonsense executives.

The bottom line: let’s stop acting like grumpy neighbors with all this “generations in the workplace” nonsense. As learning professionals, let’s do our due diligence in identifying learning needs for each individual and let’s assist them through appropriate development opportunities, regardless of the year in which they were born.

 

12 thoughts on “Get Off My Lawn, Millennials! An Infographic for Training Different Generations in the Workplace

  1. Oh, Brian, you went far to make a point, man! Not only is the info in your infographic not based on research, it’s erroneous. I know, I know, you were only throwing it together quickly to make a point, so I’d like to further your point about how misconceptions can become the buzz. and correct some of the erroneous info in your infographic about baby boomers.
    – Baby boomers were born in the years ~1946-1960. that means that the oldest are just turning 70 this year. 60 is the new 40 these days and I think you would find that most do not fit the image of being stooped over with a cane to walk. That would be the previous generation.
    – Half of all U.S. households had television sets by 1955 – so many had them much earlier. The oldest boomers would have been 9 by then. So most grew up with a TV in their household.
    – Most of the baby boomers I know are very tech savvy and quite versed on the Internet, cell phones and more. Heck, even my mother at ago 90 has an iPhone and a laptop. She’s on Facebook and I frequently get texts from her.

    OK, I’ll stop now. Thanks for making it clear that you can’t believe everything you read, even if it makes an interesting infographic!

    • Thanks Elizabeth. Yes, my point exactly. There’s too much stuff out there being presented these days about working with different generations – and I think the VAST majority of the information out there is more harmful than this infographic because it is presented as if it is grounded in some sort of fact while, in actuality, it is only as real (and offensive) as the images in this infographic.

      And yes, the images and the “facts” were intended to be tongue in cheek.

      I’m sure my mother (a baby boomer about to go zip lining through a monkey jungle in the Dominican Republic) loves the elderly couple walking with the cane to represent her youthful vigor!

  2. I do like to explain about the younger employees in our midst and the last portion of the brain to be fully developed: the pre-frontal cortex. Not fully developed (in most young people) until 25-26. So what does this part of the brain do for us? “The cluster of functions that center in the prefrontal cortex is sometimes called the “executive suite,” including calibration of risk and reward, problem-solving, prioritizing, thinking ahead, self-evaluation, long-term planning, and regulation of emotion.”
    HUH! So perhaps we just need to be more patient, coach them on goal setting ( and not 3 year goals, but perhaps 30,60,90 day basis).Don’t blame it on entitlement, or trophy generation. Blame it on those magnificent 3 pounds that matter most! Develop it and yourself!

    • Great point Priscilla. What you’re describing seems to be a function of biology that Millenialls are working through now, and Xers had to work through before them, and Boomers and the “Greatest Generation” before them.

      You hit on my point exactly – to present information as “Millennials need this” is to imply Millennials (or whatever generation) is “other” or different than anything we’ve seen before. Perhaps if the information was more targeted toward: early career professionals can benefit through X, while mid-career professionals often need Y.

  3. I heard Annie Murphy Paul speak on a related topic earlier this month at the eLearning Guild conference. It’s perhaps only tangentially related to your main point above, but is also important to keep in mind. Her point is that technology is not rewiring young people’s brains, as perhaps has been argued alongside arguments that might come out of things similar to Brian’s fake infographic. Here’s one quote from her blog that explains her point: “The process of remembering, like understanding, has certain features that remain consistent across age and across experience.”

    You can see her full blog posting on the topic here: http://anniemurphypaul.com/2012/12/is-technology-rewiring-young-peoples-brains/

    • Thanks Mark. I don’t think it’s tangential at all. I think it’s spot on. Just today I was reading an article about microlearning and how it’s so needed in today’s work environment because millennials only have a 90-second attention span.

      Microlearning is good, it’s needed… But not because of short attention spans. It’s needed because it helps give employees (regardless of age) needed information, when they need it, in just the right quantity.

  4. HA HA! I was reading the info-graphic thinking “this isn’t the Brian I know” and then the disclaimer at the bottom totally made me LOLZ! loved the addition of debunked learning styles as well 🙂

  5. Great post! I was gnashing my teeth as I read the infographic, then breathed a sigh of relief at your post below it. First, yes, this kind of misinformation is frustratingly common and poorly informs professionals in the field. We cannot oversimplify how generations prefer to learn, and do need to keep developing content tailored to the individual learner.

    Perhaps the more important thing for us to be considering in the learning field is not the generational differences of our workforce, but rather the changing nature of the workday, which is affecting workers of all ages. New technology, new pacing, and new expectations about the ways we consume content should affect how learning professionals approach their mission. Rather than focusing solely on developing engaging content, we should be thinking about that, plus how that content will fit into the workday, how we can encourage its consumption, and how that learning will be reinforced on the job.

    • Yes to everything you just wrote, Aya. I couldn’t agree more (thus the farcical infographic). I think too much focus on generations in the workforce leads to too much conversations about the wrong things. EVERYTHING you just mentioned above – the role of technology, the changing nature of the workday or even the definition of “office” are where our time would be better spent.

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