Can you REALLY teach OLD DOGS new tricks? The answer is YES. This piece contains the best ways to make TRAINING meaningful to all generations. Welcome to part 2 of the series on generational factors in managing your project team. First, let’s get some facts straight according to Dept. of Labor stats, and other research which kill common myths:
Fact: Older workers known as OWLS (40-80+) are the fastest growing segment of the workforce with high levels of knowledge to leverage. They actually KNOW how to solve problems, and deal with obstacles quickly.
Fact: According to the Department of Labor, and global statistics, over 50% of the workforce will be over 40 by 2010. They are also a protected class under our labor laws.
Reality: With the best attendance records, the highest productivity, increasing creativity, and their desire to keep working and learning, there are only physical limits (vision ,hearing, health issues) to conquer when they are learning a new way of getting things done.
Take George H., who is a VP Sales, and over 80 years old, who has been highly
Productive with increases since age 40. In fact, he is the ONLY person key customers throughout the world trust for these products. He knows the technology but has trouble with electronic infrastructure that often wastes his time, and leads to errors in shipping.
So why is George retiring now? Issues of Worker-Learners
George feels the new order entry systems is too complicated and cannot handle special requirements. His manager (late 30’s) wants George to learn the new order entry system online. He won’t listen to George’s reasons. MISTAKE #1 Stereotyping people as old dogs and “phobic”..
Most organizations, small and large rely on one method of training. MISTAKE # 2.
Many Boomer managers (born before 1965) believe that learning should be self managed. # 3 FATAL mistake.
The best way to train all workers is according to their learning style which has definite “generational” aspects to it. While the youngest generations of workers prefer electronic training, they still don’t always apply it. They often view it like “school” (get it out of the way) , and cannot apply it without coaches, mentors, or clear Manager direction.
The older workers learn best in small groups and they use e-learning programs that do not rush them.
Example: A young manager insisted a software engineer complete an online certification program in one day. It normally takes a week. He quit.
Ironically, research shows that Owls can handle less direction than younger learners who have lots of questions, or miss the message.
If Distance learning is used, it is best “synchronous” where the can include video, text, audio connections. Interactivity promotes learning.
The physical things like lighting, fonts, and computer screens, as well as other assistive devices, like good chairs and headsets are also critical for older workers.
Here is Herman’s the Wonder PM’s “Ageless” strategy for his OWLs (over 40):
1) He makes sure that OWLs have input in training design.
2) He makes sure that lighting, sound, and visual images are easily visible.
3) He makes sure the pace of spoken training fits the slower paced OWLs as well as the “faster driven” under 30 workforce.
4) He uses a variety of methods :E-learning, video examples, discussions, tests of knowledge, coaching, and follow up application metrics.
5) He makes sure it is fun to learn, reducing the anxiety of new subjects changes. He uses appropriate humor.
6) He uses good fonts (Verdana 12) in materials and no glossy paper.
7) He follows- up to ensure there is immediate application. .
A great resource for training the over 40, “Owls is Training Older Workers and Learners”, Moseley, and Dessinger, 2007.
Michele Jackman and Herman