We talk a lot about lifelong learning. With many of our clients being professional associations, it would only make sense that lifelong learning is often a topic of conversation. Many people join associations as they can be a great place to find education and training. There are people who just need to get their continuing education credits each year, and others who just have a genuine interest in continuing to learn – regardless if they need the credits or not. Then there are always the people who feel like they already know it all – or at least know it all when it comes to their profession. But, with how rapidly things are changing when it comes to things like automation, artificial intelligence and technology in general, we should all be thinking about not just lifelong learning, but what some would call lifelong employability.
While not everyone may agree with the term ‘lifelong employability’, it is a solid concept. I find that we talk a lot about Millennials and Gen Z. How can we appeal to the younger generation? How can we hold their attention? What will they find value in? While we’re focusing on these younger groups of people, there is a very large group of people that may be neglected.
Recently, Deloitte Insights published an article that said that by 2024, 1 in 4 workers in the United States will be age 55 or older. Compare that to twenty years earlier, when only 1 in 10 workers was over the age of 55.
So, what does this mean and how can associations play a role for all generations of learners?
We’ll drill down more into the above table, below:
This allows your members to focus on the most applicable training for them, rather than receiving training on a wide variety of items that might not be relevant to them at that time. For Gen Z, these trainings might be geared more towards entry-level roles, while Millennials might be more interested in trainings that help them get into management and leadership positions. For Gen X and Baby Boomers, you may want to tailor some of your trainings to be more centered around simply continuing education courses, while others might be for those in older generations making career changes later in life.
While education and learning can sometimes be required, when it’s not you may need to motivate certain generations more than others to learn. While older generations may be fine with the standards ways of attending conferences and consuming standard courses on-demand, younger generations continue to expect more and more gamification, reward, and recognition.
Attention spans are getting shorter. In fact, it doesn’t seem that longer modules and presentations were ever more effective than they are today. People are also busier and shorter on time for training. Providing them the ability to complete microlearning modules and courses allows your members to continue their education in short bursts, rather than trying to find the time to finish a long and lengthy course. Microlearning can also take on different formats. There is no one size fits all, or one format fits one generation, but you’ll need to take into account that older generations may prefer to read papers and eBooks while younger generations might prefer to listen to podcasts on the go or watch video presentations.
The soft skills gap continues to grow between generations. You’ve probably heard people say that the younger generations are entitled, maybe even that they’re unprofessional, lack critical thinking and people skills, and have problems respecting authorities. The list of grievances could go on. But these younger generations came of age in a time of profound change and uncertainty. This translated into feeling that in order to succeed, one had to stand out among the crowd. But when finally hired on at that new job, they were then expected to fit in with the crowd and fit the mold. By adding soft skills training courses to your association’s offerings, you could be helping members develop stronger leadership, improve problem-solving, enhance creative and critical thinking, and work better together. While you may think the younger generations will benefit most from these courses, older generations may as well, and back at their respective workplaces, everyone will benefit from working better together.
I believe most people are familiar with mentoring. It’s a concept that makes sense to us. Your younger members could be mentored by older members in the association to provide guidance and advice to help younger members get their careers going. But, the older generations mentoring the younger generations isn’t the only option. As technology continues to evolve, the younger generations are becoming more and more tech-savvy, and are usually able to pick up new skills and training quickly. For someone in an older generation deciding they want to learn new skills, it may be helpful for them to be mentored by someone younger who is proficient at what they are hoping to learn. This also goes for older generations looking to make career changes later in life. Mentoring and reverse mentoring can also help different generations understand each other better and assist with closing that soft skills gap just a little more.
As the world keeps changing and people continue to live and work longer, it’s important for associations to embrace this and offer solutions for their members who are interesting in learning new skills and aren’t able to just retire when technology changes or even eliminates their role. There is also a huge opportunity for this education to help the younger generations as they continue to figure out what they want to do and where they want to go.