Thursday 16 January 2020

Free @eLearningGuild research on #generations in the #workplace @JaneBozarth

The inspiring eLearning Guild keeps disseminating great reports in relation to learning. One of their key authors is Jane Bozarth (= director of research @eLearningGuild), who is always an inspiration. You also know that a report will be of interest if she writes it.

In the eLearning Guild's latest report (19 pages) the focus is on Generations in the Workplace: how they see each other and why this is worth all of our attention. Interestingly, the report starts out with a clear framing on why all of us tend to have possible stereotypes confirmed when thinking about 'the other' in terms of age and what a person in a certain age group can do (see page 2 of the report). And the report concludes that little comparable research in terms of learning outcome is being done, diversity and inclusion of age groups is a concern, training might be affected by trainers encountering different attitudes towards their training, concepts that are being used as indicators (e.g. lifelong learning) to assume a strong will to learn might be based on different interpretations of those concepts by learners. The complete list of ideas and outcomes for L&D practitioners is pasted below. 

Basically, learners of all ages are more similar than different! So, erase any potential stereotypes and move on :) Get the report, it is free (if you register with the eLearning Guild, also free) and it is a really good read.

It is difficult to find advice for L&D practitioners that is not rooted in often-unsubstantiated data from the popular press. A few takeaways from this review of the empirical literature base:
• It seems worth noting that while much research explores values and attitudes (Do people of different generations comply with rules? Do people of different generations like technology?), little of it compares outcomes. Is one generation more productive? Is one generation more prone to making errors? There is no evidence to suggest one person inherently performs better than another by dint of any grouping by birth year.
• Work has changed. More work is remote, more work is mobile, and people are becoming increasingly accustomed to finding quick answers and help. Workers need content that is available anytime, anywhere, and is accessible via any number of devices. The content may need to be less formal than it has been in the past. Workers may need help understanding how to access that content and how to use the devices.
• A number of researchers (among them Mencl & Lester, 2014; Urick et al. 2017; Woodward, 2015) tie concerns about generations in the workplace to the larger matter of diversity and inclusion. L&D workers involved in efforts in these areas may need to incorporate ideas about generations into that broader context.
• In their 2015 review of the literature, Woodward et al. found that younger generations placed greater emphasis on lifelong learning and personal development at work than older generations. Those in L&D might consider that similarities can take a number of forms. For instance, Mencl & Lester 2014 note that the Baby Boomer interested in “career advancement” and the Millennial interested in “lifelong learning” may be talking about very similar things.
• An interesting take comes from a 2018 Learning Solutions article by Joe Mayer, who reframes the conversation from “managing differences” to “avoiding generational bias”. Among his suggestions are using design thinking to take an empathetic view of the learner, to conduct extensive user-testing of your user base, to choose appropriate vehicles for content rather than try to accommodate some perceived generational preference for a particular medium or instructional approach, and to consider tenure rather than age.
• Finally, we should take care to check our own biases. In a lab experiment in which undergraduates taught a technical task (using Google chat) to learners of varying ages, researchers found that “ostensibly older trainees evoked negative expectancies when training for a technological task, which ultimately manifested in poorer training interactions and trainer evaluations of trainee performance” (McCausland, King, Bartholomew, Feyre, Ahmad & Finkelstein, 2015) p. 693. In short: Trainer stereotypes of learners based on age created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Older trainees received lower-quality training, which could ultimately affect job performance.
(p. 14, eLearning Guild, 2020)