Sleeping With Your Eyes Open: How to Avoid a Training Session Gone Wrong

When I entered the workforce as a wide-eyed Millennial, it only took me a few short months to pinpoint the most draining aspects of my new work life. The biggest surprise for me came when I learned that training would rise to the top of that list of avoid-if-possible workplace activities. I can still remember my naïve sense of excitement prior to my first half-day training. I imagined that it would be full of team-building human knots, challenging philosophical debates, and, if time allowed, a rousing department vs. department competition to tie it all off. A colleague quickly brought me back to earth when on the way to the training he sighed and said, “Even the thought of this meeting bores me. Looking forward to some quality FB + Twitter time.”

To my disappointment, he wasn’t wrong. After a feeble attempt by the trainer to get the crowd excited about talking processes and procedures, the true boredom began. And I don’t mean stuck in traffic boredom. I mean, the glassy-eyed… am I awake or asleep?... what are they droning on about?... grade ‘A’ kind of boredom.

When it comes to training, building a program that reaches, impacts, and inspires all generations in the room can be a tricky endeavor. Generations can, and do, appreciate when organizations and managers take the time to drop some professional knowledge. But far too often the connectivity to the content is lost in the process.

With a deeper understanding of the traits and perspectives of each generation, trainers can present content in a way that resonates and inspires employees so that they not only learn the content, but also take that content into action. There are many factors to help trainers tap into adult learning, from instinctual learning styles to how school has imprinted its methods on learners. By understanding education trends during formative years, you can spot generational learning traits that have carried on into adulthood. For example, Millennials were educated during the inquiry and collaboration age of educational pedagogy, while many Boomers were taught through rote memorization. These generational learning traits still have their place in the way trainees receive and process content. A generational lens adds that extra insight into how trainers can turn a training into a meaningful, takeaway-filled session rather than a glorified naptime.

To that purpose, BridgeWorks is hitting the road, pounding the pavement, blowing the pop stand, making our grand debut at the Association for Training and Development International Conference and Expo in a couple weeks. As we pack our bags, we are eager to begin the discussion around how companies and organizations can adapt their training styles and programs to best connect with all four generations (soon to be five!) in the workplace. We would love to continue this discussion at ATD. Let us know if you’re planning to be there too! Or come find us at booth #848 to get the scoop on all things generations. (Booth number updated for ATD 2017.)