Embracing Generational Differences in Adult Workforce Training

Baby boomers have different ways of approaching work than other generations. 

Research has found generational differences in the way people of various ages approach work and work-related training. These differences can make training workers more difficult since people may respond to training differently because of their age and background. Nevertheless, it is possible to find common ground and even use generational differences to benefit individual employees and the company as a whole.

How the Generations Are Different

Baby Boomers, now spanning ages 54 to 72, are retiring by the thousands every day, but they still constitute about a third of the U.S. workforce, an estimated 44 million. Boomers are the last generation that really responds to a top-down hierarchical management structure, although many of this generation has come to prefer a more collaborative model. While Boomers are generally proficient in technology, they aren’t as dependent on it as younger workers.

Generation X, now in their late 30s to early 50s, contribute about 53 million workers to the workforce. Gen X workers are independent and self-reliant with a strong work ethic and a need to make their own decisions about their work.

Millennials, ages about 19 to mid-30s, are continuing to enter the workforce and experienced the severe recession of 2008-10 or beyond, which made them more discouraged about working and distrustful of employers. Millennials favor a collaborative approach and value frequent feedback from leadership.

It is possible to find training methods that can bridge the gaps between the generations.

How Generational Differences Can Benefit the Workplace

Generations can learn from each other to improve the workplace and training efforts. Pairing up new employees with a mentor from a different generation can lead to sharing information about learning styles and lead the generations to put themselves in the others’ shoes. Some seemingly different preferences can actually work together quite nicely; most people in all three generations favor a collaborative approach above a top-down model, for instance.

In fact, people in all three generations also value things like feedback and supervisors with integrity, while they don’t like change. This gives workplace leadership many similarities and differences to work with when creating training programs.

Presenting training materials geared toward a variety of learning styles and generational preferences typically makes for better training overall, and being aware of possible generational differences can help trainers adapt to these variations when they train workers. Differences become particularly important when an employee seems to be struggling with their job or with particular training material. Instructors can use their knowledge of generational differences to target difficulties and help struggling employees get back on track.

For instance, a Baby Boomer employee that seems to struggle with structure and direction may need a mentor to give them stronger guidance, while a Millennial may need constructive and positive feedback and more supportive group collaboration in order to succeed.

CCSU offers many courses that can help people succeed in the workplace. Join our mailing list to keep up with all the courses we offer.

Top 5 Crossover Skills for Today’s Professional

Having a strong repertoire of transferrable skills – those that can be put to use in multiple work settings and contexts – is a great way to set yourself apart when pursuing professional opportunities. Although you may seek to move to a job that seems very different and may wonder if you have the required qualifications, the new job may in fact involve many of the same skills you use in your current job, in a volunteer position, or even in a hobby you love.

Here are some of the top crossover skills employers want in today’s professionals.

1. Speaking multiple languages.

Being bilingual may open doors for a variety of jobs that deal with the public in areas where a significant number of residents don’t speak English. Spanish is probably the most common language spoken other than English, but in certain areas other languages may also be in demand, including Korean, Mandarin Chinese, and Sanskrit.

2. Project management.

Project management is important in many jobs across different industries, making it a top crossover skill for your next job. Project management encompasses communications and interpersonal skills as well as organization, efficiency, and the ability to work on a deadline. The complex nature of project management makes it a valuable skill to many employers.

3. Public speaking skills.

This skill is useful for jobs like trainer, manager, sales professional, and marketer or public relations person, and can be transferrable between these jobs along with other needed skills. Being well spoken and not intimidated by speaking in front of an audience is a skill many employers will value even when formal presentations aren’t a regular part of the job, and employers may also see a candidate with public speaking skills as having potential for advancement in their succession planning efforts.

4.  Bookkeeping/budgeting skills.

These skills are useful not only in entry level positions where you may be assisting management in tracking spending and planning a budget, but they are also useful when you get promoted and have direct responsibility for these tasks. Even if you end up delegating bookkeeping and budgeting to your assistant, you will have to look over their work and make sure the figures are right and that they make sense and fit with the company’s goals.

5. Computer literacy and basic skills using common programs.

A large majority of professional jobs today require computer skills of some kind. Computers are used to communicate with colleagues and co-workers, to complete tasks related to the specific position, and to store information that will be used in the job. The more you can learn about different computer software, the more comfortable you will feel using computers and the more qualified you will be for jobs that require computer skills of all kinds.

CCSU’s Continuing Education department offers many courses designed to teach transferrable skills like how to use particular computer programs, speak foreign languages, and learn project management techniques.  To join our mailing list, email csterling@ccsu.edu or call 860-832-2277.  Stay on top of all the new and recurring courses we offer to help build on your existing skills and make them even more attractive to employers.

How to Use TED Talks to Enhance Continuing Education Programs

TED (Technology, Education, Design) Talks are brief videos, usually 4 to 10 minutes in length, that share ideas and information about a topic. These talks are typically engaging and high-interest for viewers and have many applications for continuing education.

The TED-Ed website is designed to encourage continuing education both on an individual basis and in group settings where teachers use the material as part of a lesson plan. All TED-Ed videos have a multiple choice quiz included, and teachers can also make up questions and share them with other educators to provide even more resources that make them easier to use.

Options to customize a lesson right on the website make it easy to adapt content for use in any classroom, and videos can help keep students’ interest better than straight lecture or reading materials. Videos can also be used to reinforce points from lectures or reading assignments and allow students to build on prior knowledge, which improves retention.

Flip a Video Option

TED-Ed original content consists of animated videos that illuminate a topic. Educators can use an option called “flipping” a video, which allows them to assign it to students before a lesson to provide background or context during the lesson.

The TED-Ed website even allows educators to use the “flip a video” tool on any video from YouTube, which includes many educationally-based videos through the popular YouTube for Schools channel. The versatility of the TED-Ed website makes it a perfect choice for use in continuing education courses.

How TED Talks Can Improve Continuing Education

One positive aspect of TED talks is that they are some of the best examples of teaching that exist today. Imagine having Bill Gates or Steve Jobs (who passed away a few years ago) addressing your technology classroom. TED talks can bring the best possible speakers to your classroom at no cost to you.

Educators can not only use the talks to bolster their own lessons, but they can study the ways the talks present information and learn techniques that can make their own presentations more effective and engaging. In this way there is a double benefit to using TED talks in continuing education lessons.

Many times, continuing education can be seen as less important or effective than courses that give college credit, but continuing education serves many purposes that courses for college credit cannot fulfill. Continuing education courses might give specialized information needed for particular careers or job positions, leading to a certification or other recognition when the course or courses are completed.

Continuing education courses can also be for enrichment and can help participants learn to think differently about a topic or develop an enjoyable hobby outside of work. Some jobs even require continuing education in order to keep skills current, and those who don’t want the time commitment or expense of studying for an advanced degree can still meet their job’s ongoing requirements with inexpensive continuing education courses.

CCSU offers many continuing education courses designed to fulfill the objectives described above and even more. For more information about all the courses we offer email Christa Sterling @ csterling@ccsu.edu.

The Value of Storytelling as a Learning Tool

People have used storytelling as a learning tool since the beginning of recorded history (at least). Before there were printed textbooks and computers and terrabytes of data about different learning styles, storytellers shared oral history with townspeople and passed down information from generation to generation.

Storytelling is still a valuable tool today, and although it it sometimes forgotten in the midst of all the other teaching methods available, it is still highly effective for many reasons.

Why Storytelling is Effective

The main reason storytelling remains an effective technique in today’s learning environments is that it’s engaging and entertaining. It’s just plain more interesting to listen to a teacher telling a story than it is to hear one giving dry information that you are expected to learn and process.

The reason storytelling is engaging is that it gets people’s emotions involved in the learning process. When emotions are involved, it’s easier to remember what was taught. You may not remember disembodied facts, but you may remember facts that were part of an interesting story because your mind and heart were both engaged.

Storytelling gives meaning to otherwise seemingly irrelevant data. It gives the learner a reason to learn, helps put the data into context and gives learners a real life reason to learn facts and information.

The Components of Storytelling

There are several components of storytelling that also help to explain its educational value. Storytelling is all of the following:

–Concretizing. Telling a story brings information out of the abstract realm and makes it concrete by linking it to concrete and tangible examples. Concrete examples help learners visualize information and how it will play out in the real world, as well as giving them a framework for applying the information to an actual situation in life.

–Assimilating. If learners can’t take new information and integrate it with existing information, the new information is more difficult for them to understand and process, and they are not as likely to retain it. In education theory this process is called scaffolding, which is like building new layers of learning on top of existing information.

–Structurizing. Storytelling helps learners structure information in their minds so that it makes sense to them and they can then apply it to their world. Structurizing is especially important in helping students make connections between new concepts they learn in the classroom and other situations they have experienced previously.

These components are often taught as beneficial for any teacher to incorporate into their lessons, and storytelling makes them even stronger and more compelling.

Incorporating Storytelling Into Teaching Situations

Stories can appear in educational lessons in a variety of ways including narratives, case studies, life histories, myths, anecdotes, legends, scenarios, illustrations or examples, and critical incidents. In almost any lesson, storytelling can be used to keep students’ interest high and enhance retentions of important concepts.

Central Connecticut State University offers many continuing education courses to enhance both professional and personal enrichment for people of all ages. Join our mailing list to get information about all the courses we offer.