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.
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.