How Not to Sabotage Your Training Program: Learning Experiences that Work Across Generations

Every time we visit my grandmother, who is an octogenarian, she hands me a newsletter she gets from a women's club in which she's been an active member since 1950-something. The newsletter is two sided, copied on canary yellow paper with dense text interrupted by clip art and the occasional hand-written edit to a typo.

Grandma shares this with us because the newsletter usually contains knock-knock jokes, which are much loved by my six year-old, or a casserole recipe that Granny thinks I ought to try. And while we sometimes remember to share the jokes with our son, the newsletter usually hits the recycling bin without ever being read. Why? Because the medium is too dated to be worth my time. 

Maybe you've felt this way about a website: the design and content seem very 1999, and you make the assumption that the product or service it represents is too.

In communication, modernity matters. This is especially true when what you're communicating is important: material you really need your workforce to be able to understand and apply. Fail to pay attention to the way your information is presented, and you can easily undermine the content.

Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980) and the Millennials (1981-2000) have been raised in the era of personal computing. Credibility is established in part through strong visual design, customized content (think about the way Amazon knows what products to recommend), and logical and interactive structures. The following charts spell out what the younger workforce wants and needs in training programs:

Note that Generation X (who are in their early-30s to mid-40s) are tech driven but still using their laptops. Now look at Gen Y:

For Gen Y, you can skip the laptop: they're using their phone. And for a generation raised on texting, keep it short.

How do you design training and learning experiences that suit the fast-paced, customized preferences of these young leaders? Training Magazine offered interesting insights in an interview with learning experts from Aetna Insurance. They argued that learning styles are downardly compatible by one generation, but not upwardly compatible. In other words, design for Gen Y, and Gen X will follow along. But design for Gen X, and expect Gen Y to discredit it, much as I discredit my grandmother's newsletter.

We'd love to hear about your Gen X/Gen Y training strategies. Share them here, or tweet your thoughts to @ValuesDriven.

Amber Johnson is the CVDL's corporate relations advisor and a non-profit and small business communications specialist who confesses to being firmly in the Gen X camp. She writes about forgiveness, and other non-business topics, on her blog,

Kick Complexity to the Curb: How Leaders Can Play Host to Creative, Complexity-Free Processes

Out of intense complexities intense simplicities emerge.  ~Winston Churchill

"Complexity is a leader's enemy not their friend. Great leaders live to eliminate or simplify the complex, while average leaders allow themselves and those they lead to be consumed by it. Complexity stifles innovation, slows development, gates progress, and adversely impacts culture. Complexity is expensive, inefficient, and ineffective. …great leaders understand opportunity and profits are extracted from complexity through simplification, not by adding to the complexity."

I read that paragraph last week in an article in entitled, Five Transitions Great Leaders make that Average Leaders Don't.  I thought back on my own week—having had several Skype calls with individuals in Argentina and Peru, helping someone with a leadership survey in Malawi, researching topics that seemed to have an endless amount of information available on the Internet—and I realized that even in my own little world just how complex things have become.  We don't have to search far for complexity because we live in it!

This then led me to an article by Margaret Wheatley with Debbie Frieze entitled,Leadership in the Age of Complexity: From Hero to Host.  What an interesting analogy to describe the leadership transition necessary to lead in complexity—from hero to host!

These authors say that "leaders-as-hosts know that people willingly support those things they've played a part in creating—that you can't expect people to 'buy-in' to plans and projects developed elsewhere."  They say that hosting leaders must:
  • provide conditions and good group processes for people to work together
  • provide resources of time, the scarcest commodity of all
  • insist that people and the system learn from experience, frequently
  • offer unequivocal support—people know the leader is there for them
  • keep the bureaucracy at bay, creating oases (or bunkers) where people are less encumbered by senseless demands for reports and administrivia [I love that word!]
  • reflect back to people on a regular basis how they’re doing, what they’re accomplishing, how far they’ve journeyed
  • work with people to develop relevant measures of progress to make their achievement visible

I have to admit, as I read that list (and I didn't include the entire list here) that I felt a bit exhausted.  Hosting leadership is hard work; it's much more involved than simply playing the role of "hero."  A hero can swoop in, make all the decisions, assume everyone will follow without question (because you're the hero after all) and you're on to the next challenge. 

Will you make the critical transition to shun complexity and live to eliminate and simplify the complex, or will you (and those you lead) be consumed by it?
Dr. Kathryn Scanland is the president of Greystone Global LLC, a consulting firm focusing on strategic planning, leadership development and organizational design. This post is republished with permission from Tuesday Mornings.

Make Your Boss Work for You: How One Company Commits to their Employees' Personal Goals

By sharing their personal (including financial) goals, Service
Express' employees make their bosses work for them.
See the video to learn how.
A basic tenant of good leadership is to let go of your dictatorial side, and let the leadership qualities of your followers emerge and be nurtured instead. That makes sense, because the end-goal is to advance the company's strategic plan: to grow and be profitable.

But what if your company had a radically different end-goal? Through the Return on Values research project, our research team recently met one company that has turned the end-goal upside down. Service Express is a data center maintenance company that motivates their employees by making personal goals  (including employee financial goals) a primary company objective. It’s a growth industry, to be sure, but SEI’s growth is tremendous. Since instituting the culture 10 years ago, they have cut employee turnover in half, seen double digit bottom line growth in every consecutive year, and enjoyed a 98% customer retention rate.

Want to learn how they've done it? Click here to watch a short 4-minute video.

How to Come Back to Work from Vacation: 5 Quick Tips

Returning from vacation can be tough. Here's how to leave
the baggage behind. (Photo credit nhanusek via Compfight cc
Some people love work so much they never mind returning from vacation. Good for them.

For the rest of us, the return to work after a long weekend or a vacation can be daunting. Even if you love what you do, not many of us look forward to the rush of questions, unanswered emails, back to back meetings, and catch up work that waking up post-vacation requires.

Returning rested will take some advance planning. Here are five tips on how to return to your company ready to face the workday: