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Generational Leadership

Generation Training: Strategies for Coaching & Bringing Out the Best Across the Generations

Bringing Out the Best Across the Generations

Coaching and training are two important tools that support other efforts, although they obviously function differently. The generations do have slightly different approaches to learning, so it’s worth it to take a look and see what some of their expectations are.

Traditionalists—are less likely to look at themselves as needing coaching than other generations are. They do want training that is tied to their jobs. Their learning style tends to be more classic, in a classroom setting, and be very structured. It is important for the instructor to be an expert in their field so that the Traditionalists can fully respect them. Equally important are the details. Make sure that all learning material is presented free of errors, including spelling and grammar.

Boomers—are cautious of coaching unless it is connected to outcomes that are not tied to their employment status. If their job is at risk, they are less likely to accept the need for coaching and a well-intentioned effort could backfire. Boomers want learning that is tied to bigger picture ideas and look for interactive classroom environments where possible. They appreciate peer-to-peer learning from trainers that are professionals in their fields.

Generation X—tends to be focused on transferable skills that they can take with them should they need to make a move, either lateral within the company or to an entirely new opportunity. Most are open to individual coaching and may even prefer it to classroom teaching because of the focus on independent learning. Ironically, the more equipped that they are when it comes to learning those transferable skills, the more likely they are to stay. Generation X:ers like self-directed learning where they get to figure things out on their own based on clear rationales and directives. Then they will come back with questions to be answered by expert trainers.

Millennials or Generation Y—are sponges ready to absorb new information. Their learning style is team-based and hands-on. Millennials want it all. They love being coached, they want classroom interaction where they get to know each other and their peers, and they are ready to take on online instruction at the drop of a hat. Abstract information needs to have immediate practical application. While all generations are becoming more and more accustomed to various forms of online learning, for Millennials, technology is a given. Games are always appreciated, especially if new and entertaining approaches are used instead of the same-old, tried-and-true.

Be prepared to pay close and continuous attention to what the Millennials are doing and to be there and ready to answer questions when they come up. They are likely to start to train each other and to function as co-facilitators without thinking twice about whether that enhances or impedes the learning, so set parameters for engagement up front.

Coaching and training will continue to be instrumental in workforce development and to serve as motivators for individuals. Paying attention to generational learning needs and training resources is an excellent way to keep everyone feeling included and engaged. And as we all know, there is nothing better than an engaged workforce to keep companies going!

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About Dr. Annika Hylmö

Dr. Annika Hylmö is an Organizational Strategy Consultant and Executive and Leadership Coach with The Insight Generation. Annika has a Ph.D. in Organizational Communication and a M.A. in International Communication. She can be contacted at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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