Approaches to training take into account personalities, generational differences

Posted: January 13th, 2014

Midlands Business Journal – Article by Michelle Leach
December 27, 2013

Sea changes like an unprecedented five generations collaborating and potentially clashing in the workplace, are molding how organizations train professionals and refine skills.

“Generation Z, the 18 to 21 year olds, are entering the workforce,” said Liz Hall, executive director of C&A Industries’ training and development, highlighting the other extreme. “You have the ‘traditionals’ – people who are working longer and who are not retiring at 60, 65.”

Traditionals precede boomers, followed by Generation X, Y, and now Z. Diversity is a positive, but Hall noted conflicts arise with nuances like how generations tend to communicate.

“Generation Z, they’re the first 100 percent tech-driven generation,” she said, adding, generally, “On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, the traditionals like face-to-face conversations and don’t want emails… You have to find training mechanisms that hit a broad spectrum.”

Hall has strategically selected professionals from various generations to present on topics, visibly illustrating generational nuances.

“I’ve seen it come full circle,” Hall said. “Six or seven years ago, everything needed to go online and had to be tech-driven, and we’ve really had to scale back.”

This approach didn’t take into account the boomers, traditionals and, to a lesser extent the X’ers who prefer that “human touch.”

When it comes to delivery of training, Hall also noted that the model used to be, “tell, show do.”

“It’s actually flip-flopped,” she said. “It’s a different way of thinking.”

“We were so apt to spew information and tell, and then show and then they have to do it. Now they sit down and have to do it.”

Then, one explains “why” and the significance of the “do.”

Citing the Nebraska Business Development Center’s upcoming catalog, Kim Harter, marketing and outreach coordinator for NBDC, highlighted 48 courses exploring leadership, project management, business analysis, HR, process improvement, sustainability and office technologies.

Off-site and lean courses may be customized for businesses.

“Companies seem to be looking for more collaborative, virtual training,” Harter said. “The culture seems to be shifting from a command and control to a more collaborative, teamwork atmosphere.”

Its ThinkTank toll facilities creative collaboration and teams, Harter said, in strategy development, process engineering, risk management and product development.

Some companies are working with NBDC to create yearlong leadership development programs and to improve soft skills, she said.

Harter acknowledged succession planning.

“There is more interest to transfer knowledge to the current workforce and companies are looking for training to fill the gap,” she said.

Conflict management joins teambuilding, leadership and lean processes as in-demand topics.

Conflicts in terms of talent are costly; leveraging Society for Human Resource Management findings, replacing a hire equates to five times one’s salary and benefits at the executive level, according to VP Consulting with Noll Human Resource Services/OI Partners Joe Grady.

At the exempt level the cost to rehire can be 1.5 times one’s annual salary and benefits; non-exempt rehiring runs about one-third of what an employee earns annually.

As much as 80 percent of that turnover has been attributed to the ground floor – at the hiring level; Grady highlighted the importance of behavioral interview tools to remove “some of the subjectivity” from the process.

“Additionally, professionally developed assessment tools are available that can very helpful in determining the likelihood of an individual succeeding in a specific role,” he said.

Hall highlighted the Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness (DiSC) program.

Tailored assessments are available; (i.e. for leadership) to determine professionals’ traits influencing workplace dynamics.

For example, Hall says she’s a “D,” meaning she’s brief and to-the-point (communications, she said, accounts for 90 percent of workplace issues); however, another team member may be an “I” – a vastly different voluble and lively communication style.

Assessments like Meyers-Briggs are available , which she describes as a “little bit more intense”; Hall indicated all such tools represent a step in addressing conflicts: “As time has gone on, and communication has broken down, we need to figure out ‘why.’ There are different personalities, different generations…”

Implications are great.

Citing feedback from classes, Harter said a company who went through its “lean process” doubled products’ output.

Results flowing from the like of strategic and personal development included new business, improved customer service and project management.